The UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) center for Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) has opened a new £5.8m (US$7.2m) connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) research facility at the Culham Science Center in Oxfordshire.
The CAV R&D facility, named ‘Pit Lane’ due to its resemblance to a Formula 1 garage, has been developed at the Culham site by RACE, with support from the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and the Local Growth Fund in addition to the UK Government’s Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). Designed and built by contractor Midas Construction Ltd., Pit Lane comprises four purpose-built workspaces, each approximately 2,377 ft2in size, which will provide CAV companies with the opportunity to work on two vehicles in the workspace, with office accommodation above where technicians can analyze the huge quantities of data generated by their cars.
A CAV track control center from where vehicle movements will be monitored is part of the facility. This will act as the hub for a site-wide fiber optic network that will link with dedicated 4G phone masts and wireless units, something which will boost V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) connectivity and further enhance testing capabilities. With 6.2 miles (10km) of varied and mixed private roads, as well as more than 2,000 people on site, Culham Science Center offers a unique environment for controlled testing of driverless vehicles before they venture out onto public roads. Culham will be hosting a business event later in the year for companies interested in renting one of the Pit Lane facilities. Oxford University spinoff company Oxbotica already has a base at the RACE headquarters at Culham, and uses the site’s private road network to carry out much of its automated vehicle testing.
“We have been safely hosting trials of autonomous vehicles at Culham Science Center for over two years. Completion of the Pit Lane development will allow us to scale-up our operations and we are looking forward to welcoming a wide range of exciting new tenants and watching as they benefit from the investment that has been made,” said Garry Staunton, lead technologist at RACE. “The UK has a strong position within the connected and self-driving sector and Oxfordshire is home to a growing and dynamic cluster of CAV companies. Nurturing this is one of the goals of our Local Industrial Strategy.”
Caroline Livingstone, the UKAEA’s head of property, said, “The completion of Pit Lane signifies an exciting time at Culham Science Center as we continue to build on the site’s strong heritage by providing world-leading facilities to enable the development of CAV and other robotic technologies. We are committed to ensuring Culham remains a major employment center in Oxfordshire in addition to positioning the UK as a pioneer of advanced technology.”
Derek Quinn, Midas Construction’s executive director, added, “We are pleased to be involved with such an exciting and prestigious development. The work carried out at Pit Lane will have a lasting influence on the way we think about our relationship with driving and will also be a major boost to the high-tech industries in the area.”