FiveAI vehicles begin data gathering to prepare London for autonomous driving


FiveAI, a leading UK company developing technology for autonomous vehicles, has started data gathering in the London boroughs of Bromley and Croydon as part of the build-up of its plans to trial a shared driverless passenger service in the city by 2019.

Backed by the UK government, FiveAI is developing artificial intelligence (AI) systems and autonomous vehicle technologies at six locations in the country, with research centers in: Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Oxford, and the Millbrook Proving Ground.

Last year, the company was awarded a £12.8m (US$16.2m) grant by the government’s Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) to lead a consortium developing software for an autonomous car system to be used in the £23m (US$29.2m) StreetWise project.

In its latest research program, up to 10 of FiveAI’s vehicle’s will be driven in for 10 months by fully trained, human safety drivers in the same way as any normal, road-going vehicle.

The vehicles are not demonstrating autonomous technology at this stage. The data gathering exercise is designed to enable FiveAI to gain a comprehensive understanding of the road environment and the behavior of all road users, including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The data capture will be happening at different times of the day and night, and the information gathered will be used solely to develop the company’s driverless vehicle technology.

The data, including imagery for object recognition, and geometry to measure distance, will be collected, processed and stored in full compliance with UK and EU law, including the new European GDPR legislation, and FiveAI is keen to emphasize that it will not be used in conjunction with any other datasets that could be used to identify individuals, or for any other purpose.

FiveAI’s data gathering vehicles feature an obvious array of front-, rear-, and side-facing lidar and optical sensors on the roof, and are clearly branded to ensure full transparency, while helping to make other road users aware of their presence.

“Throughout this exercise we want to keep residents informed about exactly what we’re doing, and why,” explained Ben Peters, co-founder and VP of product at FiveAI. “We’ve been working closely with Bromley and Croydon councils, and Transport for London, as well as all of the necessary authorities, to ensure that this exercise is safe and fully compliant with UK law.

“For our service to eventually operate in London, we have to learn about the road layout, topology and traffic flow, and this data-gathering phase is a vitally important step toward making that a reality.”

William Huntington-Thresher, executive councilor for the environment and community services at Bromley Borough Council, said, “We are grateful to FiveAI for letting residents and road users know what they are doing, as the array of sensors and other equipment on FiveAI vehicles will inevitably attract attention and questions from interested residents.

“The last few years have seen tremendous changes in technology. It is quite possible that we will see dramatic changes in the way we use transport in the coming years. The work that FiveAI are undertaking will inevitably be part of that and we are watching this with interest.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.