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Autonomous cars to be tested on London’s roads before Christmas ahead of fleet rollout

Autonomous cars to be tested on London’s roads before Christmas ahead of fleet rollout

Autonomous vehicles are to be tested on London streets starting this week and continue to next summer with data used providing vital information to support plans to run a fleet of driverless vehicles between Oxford and London in 2019.

The DRIVEN consortium, led by Oxbotica, the autonomous vehicle software provider, is starting the trials on London’s roads following successful ongoing trials in Oxford.

The vehicles will be mapping the streets of Hounslow, selected for being an outer London Borough and its role as a key link between Oxford and London, and are expected to be autonomous by Christmas. During the trials, consortium partners Nominet and AXA XL will be testing data transfer, making it the most all-encompassing autonomous vehicles trial to date.

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. The 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.

As with all trials undertaken by DRIVEN, there will always be a fully qualified safety driver behind the steering wheel. They sit alongside an engineer monitoring the vehicle’s functions in the car.

The consortium, which also includes Nominet, Telefonica, TRL, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s robotics centre RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Westbourne Communications and Transport for London, is supported by an £8.6 million grant awarded by Innovate UK, the government-backed innovation agency.

It is the first time driverless vehicles will be trialled on London roads. Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, said: “Being autonomous before Christmas will showcase the huge amount of work Oxbotica’s expert team of engineers has completed since the DRIVEN consortium was established.

“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 revolutionise road travel.”
  • A consortium, led by Addison Lee, has won £15 million to introduce 15 autonomous vehicles in London from 2021, designed to support areas which are poorly served by existing public transport. The consortium also includes: Oxbotica, Oxford Robotics Institute, re/insurer AXA XL, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, TRL, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s robotics centre RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, DG Cities, Westbourne Communications and Transport for London. The service will be app-based, on demand and based on ride-sharing. The vehicles will be low-emission, designed with pedestrian in mind and priced at a level to generate demand without impacting other public transport. With its end-to-end service management and experience of completing 25 000 journeys a day in London, Addison Lee is providing the service wrapper for the project.