The DRIVEN consortium – a group of companies carrying out one of several projects to bring self-driving cars to the UK’s roads – is today unveiling the first self-driving vehicles in its fleet.
The three branded vehicles – a 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium hybrid, a 2017 Ford Mondeo hybrid and a Range Rover Evoque – are part of DRIVEN’s proposed fleet of six autonomous vehicles.
The consortium has previously announced 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.
“We’re hugely excited to be unveiling the cars we’ll be using to run our autonomous driving trials in our special DRIVEN livery,” said DRIVEN project director and Oxbotica CEO Graeme Smith.
“While local residents around our Oxford office will have had a few sneak previews of our first vehicle, now everyone can see our Range Rover Evoque, Ford Mondeo and Ford Fusion as they will appear early next year in self-driving mode on public roads around Oxford and then along the Oxford to London corridor.”
Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation said: “Testing the technology that enables autonomous driving is clearly an important part of the development process.
“High visibility branding of the test vehicles is a good thing, as they move from extensive off-road trials to streets where they’ll be mixing with everyday traffic, so that we know not to panic when we see one approaching with no-one holding the steering wheel.
“Possibly the most important thing about these trials is not the development of the technology as such but the building of our confidence in how it works, because that will be key to public acceptance of driverless vehicles both as road users and in time as potential passengers.”
The vehicles are already undergoing testing focused on key manoeuvres – such as navigating roundabouts and tricky traffic junctions, and interacting with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles – at RACE’s autonomous vehicle test facility at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. A trained safety driver sits in the vehicle at all times during testing.
“RACE’s role is to enable comprehensive testing before the DRIVEN fleet takes to the public streets,” said Dr Rob Buckingham, Director of RACE.
“Using a Government-owned facility is another indicator of the importance Government attaches to the testing of autonomous vehicles and leading the world in this rapidly developing field.”
DRIVEN will display its self-driving Range Rover Evoque at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2017, starting tomorrow in Millbrook, Bedfordshire.
The consortium will also hold a public demonstration of its self-driving vehicles on selected roads around Oxford in early 2018. During the next six months, DRIVEN’s vehicle fleet will increase to four, with urban trials taking place around the streets of Oxford.
“The work being done now will ultimately shape the future of Oxfordshire and the UK,” said County Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council.
“Decisions on infrastructure and future-proofing are happening now as we start to see autonomous vehicles move closer to being a day-to-day reality on our roads.”
In late summer 2018, DRIVEN plans to start wide-area road testing of its fleet across a range of environments, including low-speed urban and higher speed long-distance motorway driving.
Prof. Paul Newman, Director of Oxford Robotics Institute, Department of Engineering Science said: “Oxford University is delighted to be working with Oxbotica's fleet of driverless vehicles in the “Driven” programme.
“The company span out from us three years ago after our foundational work in autonomy and it is a virtuous circle to now be supporting the acceleration of the UK’s driverless cars program.
“We are driven by Driven. It is great to see those cars driving around the Oxford area as they prepare for the Oxford-London route.”
The consortium, through its members at Telefonica and Nominet, is also working to ensure the security of data created by the vehicles’ technology, which includes Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software, LiDAR sensors, on-board computers and cameras.
“The Driven project puts Nominet at the heart of developing the digital infrastructure necessary to support widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles,” said Nominet CEO Russell Haworth.
“To that end, we are addressing the issues of access, authentication, privacy, and security of digital systems.”
A new model for driverless insurance?
Another strand of the consortium’s work involves developing new insurance models for driverless vehicles. DRIVEN plans to carry out testing of data sharing with insurance systems from January 2018, enabling its partners to develop ‘Insurance in the Loop’ – a model under which cover would be granted automatically when the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Data sharing from the trial will also allow the insurance industry to develop a comprehensive understanding of the risk environment and potential claim scenarios.
The consortium’s partners believe that such a system has the potential to radically transform how insurance and autonomous vehicles will work together in connected cities.
Iwan Parry, Head of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at TRL said: “TRL is excited to be engaged in such an innovative project as DRIVEN.
“Working with partners, we will leverage our deep transport safety and technology expertise to deliver future approaches for autonomous vehicle insurance, enhanced operation of traffic management systems, and test protocols to enable a safe and successful demonstration of end-to-end autonomy in different road environments and conditions.”
Adrian Copland, DRIVEN Project Leader at global re/insurer XL Catlin, said: “Our role as insurers must be to help enable the development of the technologies that allow companies and society to move forward.
“We are delighted to be part of the DRIVEN consortium, working to understand the risks and develop the innovative insurance solutions which will be needed in the future.”