Nissan-led AV project aims to emulate natural human driving in UK driving environment


A 30-month autonomous vehicle (AV) project led by Nissan’s European Technical Center, as a part of Renault-Nissan Alliance research activities, will culminate in the most complex journey yet attempted across the UK without human driver input.

The ‘HumanDrive’ project vehicle will be expected to deal with a variety of the country’s unique driving scenarios, including country roads, high speed roundabouts, A-roads, and motorways, in live traffic and different environmental conditions.

The vehicle will also emulate a natural human driving style, providing an enhanced experience for the occupants. To achieve this, the project will draw upon the expertise of a variety of organizations, including technology giant Hitachi and the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), which oversaw the first UK tests of a driverless vehicle in a public space during 2016. Other partners include Cranfield University, the University of Leeds, Horiba MIRA, Atkins, Aimsun, SBD Automotive, and Highways England (HE).

The HumanDrive project will seek to take autonomous technology to the next level in terms of ride comfort and adaptability, covering a number of different UK road scenes with natural road positioning. The artificial driver model that controls all perception and decision making functions will pilot the vehicle, and will be developed using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Before being introduced to UK roads, the system will be developed and subjected to robust testing using a range of facilities, including simulation, hardware-in-the-loop, private test track and small sections of public roads. The HumanDrive project is jointly financed by industry and the government’s £100m (US$141m) Intelligent Mobility Fund, which is administered by the Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered by the Innovate UK agency.

“This pioneering project will considerably enhance the experience of drivers who use future autonomous vehicles,” explained Mark Westwood, the TSC’s chief technology officer. “We’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of the capability of machine learning and AI in driving. The HumanDrive project further reinforces the UK’s commitment to be at the forefront of future mobility, and as a world leader in R&D. We are delighted to be working with world-class partners on this project to ensure autonomous vehicle technology provides users with the utmost comfort and control possible.”

Paul Gadd, head of automotive at Innovate UK, said, “This is a significant next step in the testing and development of driverless car technologies and highlights how the UK is at the forefront of automotive innovation. The HumanDrive project is a great example of the dynamic collaboration of businesses and organizations.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).