The UK’s Driven research project consortium has given the first public demonstration of the capabilities of its fleet of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to interact and ‘talk’ to each other using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology.
At the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE business unit site at the Culham Science Center in Oxfordshire, the Driven project team set two of its vehicles, a white and blue 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium hybrid and a 2017 Ford Mondeo hybrid, on the roads to demonstrate the latest milestone in the program.
Using their array of lidar sensors, onboard computers and cameras, as well as Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy and Caesium fleet tracking software, the cars were able to navigate the site autonomously, encountering pedestrians, cyclists and other traffic while communicating positional and other data to each other.
Driven, which is in receipt of an £8.6m (US$12m) government grant designed to stimulate the development of new technologies, is an ambitious project that will see a fleet of SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles being deployed in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in multiple end-to-end journeys between London and Oxford in 2019.
By operating at Level 4 autonomy a vehicle has the capability of driving itself most of the time without any human input. The project’s fleet of vehicles is currently conducting urban trials around the streets of Oxford. By Q3 2018, the AV fleet will be six-strong, and the wide-area road testing of the technology is due to start in late-summer 2018 across a range of environments including low-speed urban and higher speed long distance motorway driving.
A key opportunity for the consortium and one of its members, global insurer XL Catlin, is to create a risk assessment tool to enable the user of an AV to make decisions about what level of autonomy and speed is appropriate for a wide set of driving conditions, and a new insurance proposition for AVs.
By 2019, the consortium plans to have developed a risk assessment tool that automatically processes a range of data from both the vehicle and the surrounding connected infrastructure, such as traffic control systems.
“This is a significant landmark in the development of vehicle autonomy, which has always been about more than simply self-driving,” explained Driven project director and Oxbotica CEO Dr Graeme Smith.
“This public trial demonstrates that our technology is able to share data and information that vehicles are then able to use to plot more effective routes, avoid potential hazards and anticipate conditions more effectively. This will have huge implications on the way autonomous vehicles will operate and how the future of road travel in the UK looks, improving safety, efficiency and productivity.”
Iwan Parry, head of CAVs at Drive consortium member TRL, said, “In addition to risk management and safety advice, we are also developing a comprehensive understanding of automated vehicle operating risks to enable new insurance services, and identifying opportunities to connect automated vehicles with urban traffic control systems, such as our SCOOT traffic control software, to optimize traffic efficiency in urban areas.”