New‌ facility to support driverless car technology unveiled

The UK’s Culham Science Centre has announced the completion of a new £5.8 million facility, built to support the development of connected and autonomous vehicles.

The facility, named ‘Pit Lane’ due to its resemblance to a Formula 1 garage, has been developed at the centre by RACE, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) centre for Remote Applications in Challenging Environments.

“We have been safely hosting trials of autonomous vehicles at Culham Science Centre for over two years,” said Garry Staunton, Lead Technologist at RACE, who noted that completion of the Pit Lane development would allow the organisation to scale up its operations.

“The UK has a strong position within the connected and self-driving sector and Oxfordshire is home to a growing and dynamic cluster of CAV companies. Nurturing this is one of the goals of our Local Industrial Strategy,” said Staunton.

The new facility at Culham, which offers 10km of varied and mixed private roads for driverless vehicle testing, is supported by OxLEP, the Local Growth Fund and the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Four purpose-built workspaces will provide companies working on connected and autonomous vehicles with the opportunity to work on two vehicles at a time. The development will also offer office accommodation where technicians can analyse the data generated by the cars.

In addition, the facility includes a connected and autonomous vehicle track control centre, from where vehicle movements will be monitored. To boost vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity and enhance the site’s testing capabilities, the facility has a site-wide fibre optic network that will link with dedicated 4G phone masts and wireless units.

“The completion of Pit Lane signifies an exciting time at Culham Science Centre as we continue to build on the site’s strong heritage by providing world-leading facilities to enable the development of CAV and other robotic technologies,” said Caroline Livingstone, Head of Property, Culham Science Centre / UKAEA.

“We are committed to ensuring Culham Science Centre remains a major employment centre in Oxfordshire in addition to positioning the UK as a pioneer of advanced technology.”

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