Northern Ireland’s first self-driving shuttle service coming to Belfast Harbour Estate thanks to £11 million joint government and industry funding

One of the first fully driverless transport systems anywhere in the UK is to be launched in Belfast next year as part of an innovative project led by Belfast Harbour with funding from Innovate UK.

The ‘Harlander’ project will establish an automated passenger shuttle service, providing last mile connectivity in the Harbour Estate from the Titanic Quarter railway station to Thompson Dock in Queen’s Island. The service   will transport residents, visitors and employees to venues such as Titanic Belfast, Catalyst and Belfast Metropolitan College.  The operation of the shuttle will also support Belfast Harbour’s delivery of a Strategic Transport Masterplan for Queen’s Island.

Belfast Harbour is leading the development of the service alongside a consortium of partners that includes REE Automotive, Angoka, BT and Horiba Mira.

The initiative has been awarded £5.5m in funding from Innovate UK, which is working with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to invest £41.5m in innovation projects across the UK that demonstrate real world benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Mike Dawson, People and Corporate Services Director at Belfast Harbour, said:

“Belfast Harbour has a long track record of delivering and supporting innovation, so we are delighted to be establishing the UK’s first operationally ready and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on publicly accessible roads within the Harbour Estate.  This announcement supports our Smart Port ambitions and shows our commitment to the development of Belfast’s Innovation District.  

“The City’s Innovation District has enormous potential for growth and we at Belfast Harbour want to play our part in helping to build an innovation eco-system that brings investment into the economy. Electrified connected and automated vehicles offer a route to provide a clean, efficient, and affordable public transport that aligns with net zero targets and provides connectivity to other modes of transport.” 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

“Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.


Notes to Editors

The government is awarding almost £42 million to 7 projects through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) competition. Industry consortia will match the public grant to around £81 million and will be expected to demonstrate a sustainable commercial service by 2025.  £42 million in government funding is being matched by a further £42 million from industry.

Full details of the winning projects:

Project Harlander – Belfast Harbour
£5.5 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £11 million. The Harlander Project will establish Northern Ireland’s first operationally ready, scalable, and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on mixed-use publicly accessible roads. The service will utilise a ground-breaking, multi-purpose automated vehicle that enables a cost-effective scaling of passenger services and the introduction of a goods delivery service.

Project partners include: Horiba MIRA Ltd, Angoka Ltd, BT Ltd, and REE Automotive UK Ltd.

The engagement with aforesaid project partners is subject to a consortium collaboration agreement, which is expected to be signed soon.

Partner Quotes:

Yuri Andersson, CEO of ANGOKA, said: “ANGOKA is delighted be a part of the Harlander consortium and look forward to contributing with our unique cyber security technology to protect critical data and to ensure the safe and secure operation of autonomous vehicles. We are excited to help build a state-of-the-art live showcase on our doorstep which will put Belfast right at the forefront of smart city innovation.”



Chris Reeves, Head of CAV Technologies at HORIBA MIRA, said: “The Harlander project will be the first deployment of a fully driverless transport system on UK public roads and we are extremely proud to be a core part of this pioneering UK project. Leading the safety case development and using our award-winning ASSURED CAV capabilities to make it happen in the UK and exploited globally.”  

Paul Murnaghan, director of BT’s Enterprise business in Northern Ireland, said: “Our purpose is Connecting for Good, using our talent, expertise and leading technology solutions to benefit our customers and communities. We are so pleased to be working with Belfast Harbour on this autonomous vehicle trial, which could see some exciting and ground-breaking developments for the city. 

“We will be providing advanced connectivity for the trial through our extensive 5G mobile network, as well as our security expertise and innovation to continue to help the harbour to realise their ambitions of becoming a Smart port.  We want this trial to become a leading example of how technology innovation can bring broader benefits to Belfast and the wider region for many years to come.” 

Tali Miller, Chief Business Officer at REE, said: “The Belfast Harbour project sets the stage for a new transportation era by offering an efficient, net-zero automated passenger shuttle service to existing and future residents and visitors to the Port. We are delighted to be selected for this exciting project, together with some of the best names in the industry, to provide fully autonomous passenger vehicles and inspire future plans that address global climate change across the Port and other parts of Belfast City.

“Our autonomous-ready P7 electric platforms powered by REEcorner™ by-wire technology are designed to seamlessly integrate with virtually any body design and AD system to provide a complete turnkey solution that meets the highest safety standards.”