Innovate UK has announced that ‘UK Autodrive’, a consortium of forward thinking local authorities, the UK’s leading technology and automotive businesses and academic institutions, has won the UK Government’s £10m ‘Introducing Driverless Cars’ competition.
The aim of the project is to establish the UK as a global hub for the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and to integrate driverless vehicles into existing urban environments by trialling them in two major UK cities. Not only will the programme help develop the new protocols and connected infrastructure required to deliver future autonomous mobility, it will allow the UK Autodrive team to test public reaction to both driverless cars and self-driving pods.
The funding provided by Innovate UK will be matched by the 12 consortium members to create a £19.2m three year project which will be led by design and engineering consultants Arup. UK Autodrive will deliver a programme of feasibility studies and practical demonstrations in Milton Keynes and Coventry, where the city councils are taking the lead in developing the urban infrastructure technologies required to support driverless mobility.
The feasibility studies will consider the significant implications and challenges of introducing autonomous vehicles from a technical, social and economic perspective. The studies will provide insights for vehicle manufacturers, cities, commercial operators, legislators and insurers to develop the legal framework for the roll-out of autonomous mobility.
On-road testing will include the real-world evaluation of passenger cars with increasing levels of autonomy, as well as the development and evaluation of lightweight fully autonomous self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised spaces.
Tim Armitage, UK Autodrive Project Director, Arup, said: “The UK Autodrive consortium brings together world-class expertise that will help the UK position itself as a leader in the development and adoption of autonomous driving technologies.”
“As well as developing and testing the in-car, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure technologies that will be required to drive cars autonomously on our roads in the future, the project will also place great emphasis on the role and perceptions of drivers, pedestrians and other road users. The Low-Speed Autonomous Transport System (L-SATS) will provide the first commercial scale demonstration of a solution for last-mile urban mobility which will have global significance.
“Our plan with the practical demonstration phases is to start testing with single vehicles on closed roads, and to build up to a point where all road users, as well as legislators, the police and insurance companies, are confident about how driverless pods and fully and partially autonomous cars can operate safely on UK roads.”
The partners in the ‘UK Autodrive’ consortium are Arup, Milton Keynes Council, Coventry Council, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Company, Tata Motors European Technical Centre, RDM Group, MIRA, Thales (UK), Oxbotica, AXA, international law firm Wragge-Lawrence-Graham, the Transport Systems Catapult, the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and the Open University.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “To successfully introduce driverless cars, we actually need to focus on the driver, as well as pedestrians and other road users. So we are researching the Human Machine Interface in cars and self-driving pods to ensure all road users understand, accept and support these new and exciting technologies. We need to give everyone the confidence that a car or pod driving around with little or no human input is a safe, viable and rewarding experience.
“The new advanced driver assistance technologies we are working on will ensure the excitement and enjoyment of driving will not be taken away. While the car will be able to drive itself if the driver chooses, our aim is to assist and enhance the driver – and ultimately offer levels of autonomy to suit the driver’s mood or needs on and off-road. Our vision is to offer a seamless choice of an engaged or autonomous drive.”
Jaguar Land Rover is involved in two key elements of the ‘UK AutoDrive’ project:
Firstly, Jaguar Land Rover will develop and test new Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) technologies on a semi-autonomous Range Rover research vehicle in real-world driving environments on the road in Milton Keynes and Coventry. The aim is not full autonomy, but a passenger car that is capable of being autonomous for part of the time.
Secondly, ‘UK AutoDrive’ will develop and evaluate lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised spaces. Jaguar Land Rover‘s researchers will develop the Human Machine Interface (HMI) strategy and lead the real-world trials of these technologies in these pods.