Driverless Cars Being Tested On UK Roads

The ‘Driven’ consortium will begin an information-gathering trial of autonomous vehicles from next week, which will see manned but autonomous vehicles being tested on roads and motorways between London and Oxford.

Driven

The 10-member ‘Driven’ consortium of technology firms (which includes Nominet and the Atomic Energy Authority) who are conducting the trials over the next 30 months has AI company Oxbotica’s tech’s expertise and its links with Oxford Robotics Institute (University of Oxford) at its core.

Technical commentators have noted that this is the first time that a company or consortium has attempted tests of this kind and on this scale.

Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomous vehicle control software from the UK will be used to operate the vehicles.

Backed By A Big Grant

Much of the funding for the trial has come from a £8.6m government grant.

Why?

There are several main reasons why this trial is taking place, and why the government is investing in it. These include:

  • To learn how to successfully operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles in a way that has viable commercial applications.
  • To learn about the technical aspects of autonomous vehicles e.g. how each of the 6 vehicles involved in the test communicate with each other.
  • To learn lessons about data protection, cyber security and how driverless cars should be insured.
  • To develop and keep the expertise in AI and autonomous vehicle technology in the UK, and to develop a cluster of excellence” along the M40 corridor (Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London).
  • To let the public see and get used to the idea of autonomous vehicles.

Will The Trial Be Dangerous?

Although the cars taking part in the trial will be autonomous, like the autonomous Uber car trials in the US, there will be a person in the vehicle to ensure that things go to plan. The Driver Consortium has also given assurances that all safety-critical driving functions will be performed, and road conditions will be monitored for each entire trip.

Not The Only One

The Driver consortium’s government-funded test is not the only one of its kind. A consortium called Streetwise have won £12.8m in the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles “CAV2” competition. This will go towards a £32m project by the consortium to get a road certified fleet of autonomous cars ready for use by 2019.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Having an emerging industry, with all its talent, technology and development centres here in the UK represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses as potential suppliers, beneficiaries of the technologies and products, and spin-off market opportunities. It also represents an opportunity for UK insurers.

Whereas the UK has a skills gap in many areas of the technology market, with the right amount of support and backing from the government and other investors, this could be one area where home-grown talent is tempted to stay in what will be a world-centre of excellence for autonomous vehicle / AI technology.