The UK’s first collaborative trial of connected and autonomous vehicle technology has been given the green light to move out onto city streets.
This comes after the UK Autodrive consortium successfully completed its final set of private test track demonstrations.
Project partners Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) came together at the HORIBA MIRA Proving Ground in Nuneaton on Thursday to demonstrate a series of connected car and autonomous vehicle technologies that are now ready to be trialled on the roads of Milton Keynes and Coventry.
The three vehicle manufacturers are all taking part in the £20 million UK Autodrive research and development project, jointly funded by government and industry.
UK Autodrive is the first project in the UK to showcase the benefits of having cars that can “talk” to each other across multiple makes of car. During Thursday’s event, the car-makers jointly demonstrated three of the seven connected car features (see full list below) which are being trialled during the three-year programme.
The first demonstration (Emergency Vehicle Warning) showcased cars that can warn their drivers when an emergency vehicle is approaching – as well as indicating its direction – minimising congestion and potentially reducing the time it takes for ambulances, police cars and fire engines to reach their destination.
During the second demonstration (Intersection Collision Warning), the connected cars were able to detect the presence of other connected cars on approach to a junction, and warn whenever there was a high probability of a collision.
The third demonstration involved ‘In-Vehicle Signage’, whereby connected cars can receive traffic information sent from road-side units, ensuring that drivers do not miss out on important notifications, such as changes of speed limit or temporary lane closures.
Jaguar Land Rover also used Thursday’s event to demonstrate their Autonomous Urban Drive feature, showcasing a self-driving Range Rover Sport that was able to navigate its way around an urban-style road network, successfully negotiating roundabouts, and junctions while also steering around obstacles.
“The successful completion of the proving ground trials marks a significant milestone for the project team, and we are now looking forward to demonstrating the benefits of these exciting new technologies in the real-world settings of Milton Keynes and Coventry,” said Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director.
“Once the technology becomes widely available, we anticipate huge potential benefits in terms of road safety, improved traffic flow and general access to transport, so we’re really excited about being able to demonstrate this on real roads.”
The first set of public road trials are due to take place in Milton Keynes and Coventry by the end of this year, initially on segregated sections of roads, before evolving into open road trials and demonstrations as the project draws to a close in summer 2018.
A fleet of up to 40 self-driving pavement-based ‘pod’ vehicles will also be introduced in pedestrianised sections of central Milton Keynes as a separate part of the project.
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said: “The track trials are really exciting and they mark years of hard work and innovative thinking. Coventry is the birthplace of the motor car and we are ideally placed to be at the heart of the new developments being made in driverless and connected cars.
"Technology is moving rapidly in this area and our city and region has the opportunity to once again be world beating in this sector. We have the right expertise and pedigree and in the long term the potential benefits to the environment, safety and mobility are huge. And there will be real economic advantages too. Of course we are already seeing the first stages in the technological development of cars with things like self-park and cruise control increasingly common place.
"Much of the technology exists already, it's just about adapting it to real world conditions which will be the next step."
List of connected car features being trialled within the UK Autodrive programme: