Plans have been unveiled to trial ‘super-connected’ self-driving PODs in Leeds city centre later this year.

The project has been drawn up by telecoms operator aql, Gulf Oil and a consortium of partners including the University of Leeds, Leeds and Bradford city councils.

Autonomous technology has the potential to reshape public transport and reduce congestion, commute times and pollution. It can also improve passenger and pedestrian safety.

The PODs will initially be deployed in a controlled environment on the South Bank and telecoms operator aql will be conducting real-world testing of newly-developed software systems.

Aql's mobile operator division holds 5G test licenses in the UK and the company is currently building the supporting infrastructure behind 5G in Leeds.

"Until now, much of the software for autonomy has been driven by the automotive industry," said aql founder and CEO Adam Beaumont.

"We want to embrace other disciplines such as VR and gaming which have strong transferable spatial awareness skills to help innovate and create the next generation of smart city.

"Without this technology, driverless cars, for example, will simply join the traffic queues – we need cross-city communication and coordination via the next generation of mobile network technology to unlock the potential of driverless platforms."

The announcement follows the debut of the first POD as part of Leeds Digital Festival. It has been on display around the city, including at Leeds City College alongside a jet pack flight – part of aql’s commitment to inspiring the next generation of innovators.

Aql's vehicles will be based on the Westfield POD, a platform chosen to allow innovation in autonomy.

With 20 years of experience in cyber security, aql will manage the vehicles’ safety controls and then open the platform to the developer community to allow further innovation.