The Innovate UK-backed Driven consortium, led by autonomous vehicle software provider Oxbotica, has announced that it will begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in London before Christmas following successful ongoing trials in Oxford.
The vehicles will map the streets of Hounslow and are expected to begin autonomous operations by Christmas. During the trials, digital networking and cybersecurity developer Nominet and insurance company AXA XL will test data transfer, making this the most all-encompassing autonomous vehicles trial to date.
The trials will start with mapping the streets of Hounslow, which was selected for being an outer London Borough and its role as a key link between Oxford and London. The data gathered during these trials will provide vital information to support the consortium’s plans to run a fleet of autonomous vehicles between Oxford and London in 2019. In the lead up to this, the London trials will continue until Summer 2019.
The mapping process means Oxbotica will be gathering data to help understand the contents of street signs, and the meanings of lane markings on the road to enable vehicles to be as knowledgeable as a local resident about the complexities of each street. This process will be repeated many times, and at different times, improving the understanding of how the streets change in different lighting conditions, weather and seasons of the year.
To conduct the mapping, the vehicles are fitted with a wide variety of technology including Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software, radar, lidar sensors, onboard computers and cameras. As with all trials undertaken by Driven, there will always be a fully qualified safety driver behind the steering wheel, who will sit alongside an engineer monitoring the vehicle’s functions in the car.
This marks a major project milestone for the Driven consortium, which is looking beyond what makes one car autonomous, instead exploring what more could be done with an entire fleet. AXA XL will insure the trial, and Nominet will be testing data transfer between the vehicles and consortium partners as part of the development of a robust cybersecurity model for this technology.
The other consortium partners are: the Oxford Robotics Institute, Telefonica O2 UK, TRL, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Race robotics center Race, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), Westbourne Communications, and Transport for London (TfL).
“Being autonomous before Christmas will showcase the huge amount of work our expert team of engineers has completed since the Driven consortium was established,” commented Dr Graeme Smith, Oxbotica’s CEO.
“These trials further demonstrate to the wider UK public that connected and autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of transport. This milestone shows the advanced state of our capabilities and firmly keeps us on the road to providing the technology needed to revolutionize road travel.”
Russell Haworth, Nominet’s CEO, added, “Our role developing and strengthening the understanding of data flow and security within the backbone infrastructure needed for autonomous vehicles is vital if driverless cars are to become a mainstream reality. This next phase for Driven ensures we are a step closer to achieving that goal as we find solutions and push the boundaries and perceptions of the technology required to make it happen.”