UK consortium to trial fleet of driverless vehicles between London and Oxford in 2019

Map of London and the Home Counties

A new consortium of companies led by Oxford-based artificial intelligence firm Oxbotica today announced that it plans to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles in urban areas and on motorways in the UK, culminating in an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford in 2019. 

The DRIVEN consortium’s driverless vehicles will operate at Level 4 autonomy – allowing them to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for the entire journey, even without input from a human driver.

The consortium is set to begin a 30-month project plan this month that aims to remove fundamental barriers to the real-world commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles.

It will address challenges such as communication and data sharing between connected vehicles; insurance modelling for connected and autonomous vehicles; and new cybersecurity challenges associated with data sharing in connected and autonomous vehicles.

“Today’s news is truly ground-breaking,” said Dr Graeme Smith, Chief Executive of Oxbotica. “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.”

The DRIVEN consortium, which has been awarded an £8.6 million grant by Innovate UK, believes that its connected and autonomous vehicle trial is one of the most complex ever to have been attempted anywhere in the world.

The consortium will use six inter-communicating vehicles equipped with Oxbotica’s Selenium software to provide each vehicle with awareness of its location and surroundings.

[Image courtesy of DRIVEN consortium]

[Image courtesy of DRIVEN consortium]

As part of its work, the consortium also plans to develop a system that harnesses data from the vehicle and sources such as traffic control systems to address the challenge of how to insure fleets of autonomous vehicles.

The project will address another key challenge facing connected and autonomous vehicles – data protection and cyber-security concerns – by defining common security and privacy policies.

“DRIVEN is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other,” said Professor Paul Newman, Head of the Oxford Robotics Institute, and one of Oxbotica’s founders.

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

Richard Jinks, who leads the project at re/insurer XL Catlin, said: “Working on this project gives us the opportunity to work with leading external parties to create a risk profiling tool and insurance pricing mechanism which is truly revolutionary.”

In addition to Oxbotica, the Oxford Robotics Institute and XL Catlin, other project partners include Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.