UWTSD Automotive Design graduate designs first driverless Pod in the UK


UWTSD Automotive Design graduate Elliott Hawkins has designed the UK’s first driverless Pod.

Driverless car

Elliott, who graduated from UWTSD in 2007, is Chief Designer at RDM Group, who specialise in the design and manufacture of Autonomous Vehicles. The company is based in Coventry, which is still the centre for vehicle design in this country.

Elliott said: "When I graduated I knew I didn’t want to work for a large manufacturer and get stuck designing door handles, so I looked for a smaller company. I began at Potenza Technology, who specialised in the design and build of prototype electric vehicles in January 2010. The benefit of going down this route is that you have a higher amount of responsibility, ownership and pride over what you are designing.

"My first complete vehicle was the Westfield i-racer, which was a race car for an all-electric race series. Over the years, I have been privileged to have worked on some truly incredible projects all of which have contributed to my current role at RDM Group.

"We have three large units in Coventry, where we design and manufacture our Autonomous pods fully in house. I am honoured to have the current responsibility of Chief Designer, a role which encompasses everything from the exterior and interior styling of the pods, to the drivetrain and battery pack design.

He continued: "I’m also responsible for all of our graphics, branding and the interior design of our buildings. The first vehicle we designed was the Lutz Pathfinder pod, which is currently undergoing trials in Milton Keynes. The reaction to this project was astounding and started us on our current path where we are fulfilling worldwide demand for our products.

"We are currently manufacturing 40, four-seat pods to take part in the Government-backed UK Autodrive trial. The 4-seat pod is called POD ZERO and is a new design from the design team here. The main aesthetic themes are the curved roofline and enclosed wheels.

"The hardest part of designing something like the pod is disguising the fact that it is basically a large rectangle on wheels! The main trick to achieving this is that rather than having a slab-sided front and rear like a London bus, we pinch the ends of the pod inwards when viewed from the side. We also use the enclosed wheels to give the appearance of larger wider wheels, whilst also protecting pedestrians. I genuinely look forward to going to work every day and am still in love with the entire process of design that began in Swansea."

After graduating from UWTSD, Elliott completed his Masters at The Royal College of Art in London.

He said: "I have amazing memories of Swansea as I also met my future wife who was studying fine art! I still miss the beach, the accent and Wind Street, although not the walk up Constitution Hill after a night out. To this day I still recommend UWTSD to people as a fantastic place to study, especially aspiring vehicle design students. It wasn’t just the quality of the teaching that my lecturers, Paul Morrow and Sergio Fontanarosa, offered but also the amount of time they dedicated to each student. Their passion, creativity and experience is still something on which I draw upon daily. The abiding memory of UWTSD was that it didn’t feel like you were studying at a large faceless institution, but instead felt like a family."

Sergio Fontanarosa, UWTSD’s Programme Director - BA/MDes Automotive Design, said: “Elliott joined the Automotive Design course after studying a year of Automotive Engineering. From day one, Elliott showed a deep knowledge for everything mechanical and a great passion for Art & Design. I can still remember his fantastic water colour drawings and paper models. Always focused, interested and a real pleasure to work with. I soon realised Elliott was going to be very successful in this trade. His natural talent, alongside a great commitment and motivation, made him the star student in his year group at the time and the fantastic professional that he is today. Well done Elliott!”

David Keene, CEO of RDM Group, added his support: "Design and innovation is at the heart of everything we do and Elliott is playing a fundamental role in developing autonomous pods that can deliver ‘first and last mile transport solutions’ across the globe.

“His passion for what we are trying to achieve is fantastic and we often use his story to try to attract more young graduates to join our business and help us become the world leader in driverless vehicles."


Note to Editor

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Tel: 01792 483695
Mobile: 07496 385597
Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk