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 

  • Improve access to the workplace for NHS staff 

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

Users and their needs

The key user segments targeted by our service in this project are NHS employees and patients. The key customer is Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK. 

NHS employee (commuting) problems

  • Limited car parking availability at many NHS sites

  • Limited access to public transport that coincides with shift times (day, night and during public holidays)

Patient problems

  • Limited car parking availability

  • Inability to drive safely after hospital treatment

  • Cost of parking at sites

  • Appointment no-shows and punctuality issues due to travel disruptions

  • Stress caused by current inflexible travel options - particularly when appointments overrun

NHS Trust problems

  • Patient and staff car parks at full capacity

  • Tough sustainability targets

  • Better use of mobility budget

  • Inefficiency of patient home transfer services

  • Inefficient inter-site shuttle service

  • Cost of grey fleet (cost reimbursed to staff when using their own vehicle for work purposes)

The two key user needs across all the services are flexibility and reliability - the ability to deal with unexpected changes easily, without worry or stress that the user will be let down.

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 and patients whilst also utilising the NHS Trust 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 commute service provides better access to hospitals for employees who are often working shifts at odd times of the day when public transport is limited or unavailable. Commuters just need to download the app and enter their commuting details to see commute rides that might work for them 

  2. As the managed commute service is only required at certain times of the day, the vehicles and drivers are offered for shared guest / patient services throughout the day. NHS Administrative staff manage the patient transport bookings using an administrator portal.

  3. The same fleet of vehicles is also available 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.

  4. Flock Shuttle offers employees a demand responsive shuttle service for inter-site transfers. 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 to achieve an understanding of the current location of vehicles and individuals and optimise the routing system as a result of accurate real-time location information and routing data.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are combined with the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) - Europe's regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) - to enable a location accuracy for vehicles and riders between 0.5 and 3 metres. SBAS has been selected due to critical functional capabilities including: automatic passenger vehicle onboarding detection, public transport detection, parking utilisation, automatic arrival messaging and accurate real-time route navigation.  Numerous other GNSS correction services are available, including Real-Time Kinematic (RTK), Atmosphere Correction (AC) and Precise Point Positioning (PPP). SBAS has been selected due to the economic benefits and the characteristics of the real-time vehicle tracking use case.

Current Status

Software development work is well underway on the driver app, passenger and administrator app and logistics module. The project team are preparing for the Acceptance Test milestone review meeting.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 24 November 2023 - Created: 27 September 2023