ESA title

Project Eclipse

  • ACTIVITYDemonstration Project
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREATransport & Logistics

Objectives of the service

Credit: Commute Automation Ltd


  • Help Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reduce transport emissions and meet their net zero targets 

  • Save money for the NHS by consolidating services and making better use of fewer vehicles

  • Demonstrate the real world deployment of an electric vehicle self-drive, patient transport and demand responsive shuttle service

Users and their needs

Flock Mobility introduces to the healthcare and private residential sector an innovative software platform designed to optimise electric vehicle fleets for NHS staff and patients, and new residential development residents reducing costs, enhancing access, and helping the NHS and the residential housing developers achieve their Net Zero targets. 
The key user segments targeted in the pilot are:

  • NHS employees of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital Trust who need reliable transport to and from community based appointments

  • NHS patients of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital Trusts who need reliable transport to and from dialysis treatment

  • Resident (prospective and current) of Berkeley developments who need access to key facilities without the need to own a private car

  • Marketing staff at Berkeley developments who need a presentable and green means of transport to use with prospective residents for tours to, from and around the new development

The biggest challenges for the project to meet these needs is determining the optimal number of electric vehicle and driver assets to deploy in order to provide an attractive, flexible enough service to staff, residents and patients whilst also utilising the NHS Trust and housing developer mobility budgets efficiently. 

Service/ system concept

Flock NHS Service concept

The Flock service ensures the use of each electric vehicle deployed is maximised and benefits as many users as possible by enabling multiple sharing options in a novel and user-friendly approach. The service is powered by unique shared mobility functionality that enables each vehicle to be used dynamically in three ways:

  1. A dynamic door-to-door patient transport service (powered by flock Commute functionality) provides better access to hospitals for patients who require transport to and from routine treatment appointments. 

  2. As the patient transport service is only required at certain times of the day, we offer the same vehicles for self-drive bookings by the hour for business use by staff. Authorised NHS employees can access a fleet vehicle using a smartphone application and gain instant access if the vehicle is available. Keyless entry on the vehicles allows the vehicle to be accessed via the app and enables the NHS trusts to keep track of pool car utilisation and availability automatically.

  3. Flock Shuttle offers residents of a new residential development a demand responsive shuttle service for transfers  to the nearby train station and business offices. Users download the Flock Rider App and book a seat on a scheduled shuttle service. 15min prior to the start of the scheduled service users receive a notification with updated pick up time based on re-optimisation of requested stops.

The system works by feeding the requests from multiple users made in the passenger app (ride pickup point, destination, required arrival time etc) into a ‘logistics module’. The logistics module then calculates the best way to use the available vehicles and drivers to provide as many rides as possible to the passengers. The driver app shows each driver where they have to go to pick up passengers along a calculated route optimised for maximum vehicle utilisation. Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) allow the Flock system to accurately show the riders where their driver is in real time (via the Vehicle tracker component) and show the drivers where specifically a rider is in real time (via the passenger’s mobile device). The GNSS also allows the Flock system to determine when a passenger is actually in the vehicle automatically so that users and drivers don’t have to manually confirm they are in the vehicle.

Space Added Value

Satellite Navigation technologies are used in this project so that we achieve an understanding of the current location of vehicles and individuals and optimise our routing system as a result of accurate real-time location information and routing data. The global navigation satellite system (GNSS) will be utilised for this system for acceptable coverage on an international basis. The system will use pervasive technologies and devices that are compatible with GNSS. EGNOS broadcast satellite data is received direct to the smartphone if supported by the user’s device. This level of accuracy enables us to achieve critical functional capabilities including: automatic passenger vehicle onboarding detection, automatic driver arrival messaging and accurate real-time driver route navigation.  A vehicle tracker is important as a back-up mechanism for smartphone-based GNSS. The vehicle tracker will provide real-time and historical location data for each deployed vehicle via an installed IoT device on each vehicle in the fleet.

Current Status

The Flock shuttle service has been launched at a Berkeley residential site in London.
The self-drive vehicles have been installed at two NHS Newcastle facilities.
The patient transport service is being launched to patients in April 2024.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 02 April 2024