Autonomous vehicle tests start on London’s roads

Driverless vehicle technology firm FiveAI has started testing its autonomous vehicles on London’s roads, as it prepares for the 2020 launch of shared autonomous vehicle services in the city.

Last August, the company introduced five manually-driven cars to the London boroughs of Bromley and Croydon to gather data for its driverless vehicle technology.

“The outlook for autonomous vehicle technology is still uncertain, but it has the potential to significantly change travel”

Michael Hurwitz, Transport for London

Now, the company has progressed to supervised tests of its autonomous vehicles, using the data gathered to help them operate safely while being tested in autonomous mode. FiveAI hopes to expand its testing incrementally in the coming months as it prepares for passenger trials next year.

“Safety and trusted partnerships are crucial to everything we do”, said FiveAI co-founder and CEO Stan Boland. “We'll continue to keep residents informed along the way, working closely with the London Boroughs and Transport for London.” 

The five vehicles being tested will operate at all times of the day and night, with a safety driver behind the wheel, and are clearly branded to help identify them to other road users. FiveAI has been working with Transport for London (TfL), as well as the two boroughs involved, in planning the trial.

“All cities across the UK, including London, need to understand the opportunities, risks and challenges they face when considering how transport will operate in the future,” said Michael Hurwitz, TfL's Director of Transport Innovation.

“The outlook for autonomous vehicle technology is still uncertain, but it has the potential to significantly change travel –that’s why the Mayor’s Transport Strategy commits us to engaging with innovative companies, both now and in the future, at the earliest available opportunity.”

Bromley councillor William Huntington-Thresher said that while the project was still at an early stage, “the potential for technology to transform and improve the way we travel is real”.

Croydon councillor Stuart King said that autonomous vehicles had “huge potential to better connect communities and isolated people” across the borough.

Jesse Norman, the UK’s Future of Mobility Minister, said: “The long term potential for self-driving vehicles is huge – to improve road safety, tackle loneliness and isolation and create economic opportunity. So I welcome the safe testing of this new technology.”

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