First UK driverless car test a ‘major milestone’

12.00 | 13 October 2016 | | 5 comments

A driverless car has been tested on the streets of the UK for the first time, in what is being described as a ‘major milestone’ in the development of the technology.

The LUTZ Pathfinder, developed by the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), took to the streets of Milton Keynes on 11 October.

Using virtual maps, the two-seater vehicle travelled 1.25 miles through pedestrianised areas of the town, reaching speeds of up to 15mph. A driver was on board to take over in case of emergency.

The UK Government has repeatedly expressed its desire to be at the forefront of developing driverless technology. Last week, it announced that the Modern Transport Bill will be published early next year in a bid to help Britain become a world-leader in this field.

Greg Clark, business and energy secretary, said: “[The] first public trials of driverless vehicles in our towns is a ground-breaking moment and further evidence that Britain is at the forefront of innovation.

“The global market for autonomous vehicles presents huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms. And the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.”

The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, was developed by Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute and built into an electric vehicle by Oxford University spinout company, Oxbotica.

TSC says that in the future it is expected that vehicles like those demonstrated in Milton Keynes will be used for local transportation in urban areas.

Neil Fulton, programme director at the TSC, said: “This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts.

“Oxford University’s technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world and the LUTZ Pathfinder project will now feed into a much wider programme of autonomous trials across the UK.

“Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey”

The demonstration marked the conclusion of the LUTZ Pathfinder Project, which has run for the past 18-months.


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    There already are autonomous vehicles out there, that run on dedicated lanes, and are able to run without human intervention. They’re called trains.

    David Weston, Corby
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    There is already talk about electric cars having priority lanes just like cyclists and now with autonomous vehicles are we to also look for the limited space that is left that would be available to make specific lanes for these vehicles as well? Or are they going to work on pedestrian areas only?

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    The steering wheel is fitted for ‘safety reasons’ – hmm, not that confident then, are we?

    David, Suffolk
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    The stop for the male pedestrian at 00.46 seconds looks rather abrupt, whereas a human might have eased off sooner and not have had to bring the vehicle to a stop at all. It’s as if the ‘threat’ was only registered last second. If I was in the car, that would make me rather nervous. I feel the awareness that we humans have, may be missing.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    All interesting stuff but personally, I’m just as interested in BMW’s concept motorcycle that keeps the rider in control in an autonomous world. The bike is rather weird (‘bonkers’ a friend suggested) but perhaps that was also being said of autonomous vehicles just a few years ago?

    Pat, Wales
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