‘Groundbreaking’ driverless car project to feature motorway trials

12.00 | 25 April 2017 | | 7 comments

A new government-backed project has unveiled plans to test driverless cars on UK roads and motorways by 2019.

The DRIVEN group, which benefits from an £8.6m Innovate UK grant, aims to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles in urban areas and on motorways over the next 30 months, culminating in an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford.

These vehicles will operate at ‘Level 4 autonomy’ – meaning they have the capability of performing all safety-critical driving functions and monitoring roadway conditions for an entire trip, with zero-passenger occupancy. All vehicles involved in the trial will, however, have a human on board.

The DRIVEN group, led by artificial intelligence company Oxbotica, says this is the first time a connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) trial of this level of complexity and integration has been attempted anywhere in the world.

Getting underway this month, the project will ‘shake-up the transportation and insurance industries by seeking to remove fundamental barriers to real-world commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles’.

The project team will look to address the challenges of communication and data sharing between connected vehicles, CAV insurance modelling, and risk profiling.

They will also address data protection and cyber-security concerns raised by international policymakers and law enforcement agencies by defining common security and privacy policies related to connected and autonomous vehicles.

Other partners involved in the UK project include the Oxford Robotics Institute, Telefonica O2 UK, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Oxfordshire County Council and Transport for London (TfL).

Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, said: “No company, group or consortium of autonomy experts has ever attempted what DRIVEN is planning over the next 30-months.

“We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project.”

Professor Paul Newman, head of the Oxford Robotics Institute, said: “DRIVEN is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other.

“We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles – and what’s interesting to us is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.”




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    How can people negatively comment on the one and only solution to road deaths. This needs to be embraced. For sure there are many issues that need working out, however we are capable of achieving this. I applaud all the who are striving to create our safer future.

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    Each to their own Bob. I happen to think 20 limits are justified, but I really can’t see the point or benefit of driverless cars – it has been said that they are a vanity project and no doubt work perfectly well on the private roads on Google’s grounds but there have already been several incidents involving them on the highway.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Like cyclists and 20 mph schemes. Hugh. They seem to be getting more than the lions share whereas monies for this venture is piecemeal at best. I agree with you that its another boondoggle.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    I think driverless cars will ultimately be seen as a failure as I don’t believe those behind it have thought it through and have not realised the limitations of these vehicles. I don’t know how much it will have cost in the final analysis, but just think how much good the government could have done with that money for other more needy and deserving causes.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Perhaps a daft question. What happens to autonomous vehicles in tunnels such as the Laerdal in Norway. Will passengers who have not fallen asleep be expected to drop their papers and laptops and get on with the mundane task of actually driving. Will us motorcyclists suddenly have a lot of erratic vehicles to deal with in tunnels.

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    One forerunner of this technology has recently claimed some concerns regarding the running of autonomous vehicles in conditions other than full sunlight. Seems they don’t like darkened conditions. Let’s wait and see how that plays out.

    g craven
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    People seem to be still thinking that driverless vehicles will be based on the current private vehicle model.

    Its my opinion that the real revolution will be an automated Uber type service whereby it will be municipal and other authorities providing a trip based model for payment. This will not only change the affordability and availability of mobility and transit but also provide far greater efficiency and safety by actually managing the routes taken by individual vehicles.

    So whilst the Tesla type private automated vehicle may well be available, it may well be under the same control.

    I expect to see competition between the companies currently providing hardware and the service companies who are already providing software and connected IT infrastructure.

    Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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