The first live trial of commercial autonomous vehicles has commenced in Oxford under the Government-backed Project Endeavour research project.
The scheme, which will see live tests of autonomous vehicles until Autumn 2021 in three major UK cities. It will demonstrate autonomous driving in a variety of urban and city environments and will develop engagement models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for the future launch of autonomous vehicle services.
The consortium, part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, is using a combination of advanced simulations and on-road demonstrations to help accelerate and scale the deployment and adoption of autonomous vehicles.
A fleet of six Ford Mondeo vehicles, enabled to be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, will complete a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford’s main train station.
Trials will be run at all times of day and night, allowing autonomous software firm Oxbotica’s autonomous vehicles to experience a range of traffic scenarios from morning commutes to school runs, in a range of weather conditions.
Launched in September 2019, the project has brought together Oxbotica, urban innovators DG Cities and Immense, a transport simulation company. Ahead of the public trials, three new consortium partners have been added to Project Endeavour: the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the British Standards Institution (BSI) and Oxfordshire County Council.
The trio of new partners will focus on the development of a new safety assurance assessment scheme against PAS 1881 standard for public autonomous trials.
Camilla Fowler, Head of Automation at TRL, said: “Trials of Level 4 vehicles are an important milestone, keeping the UK at the head of the field in bringing the benefits of this technology into mainstream use. These trials, and what we learn about assuring safety and encouraging interoperability will open up new opportunities for many more research demonstrations across the UK, which are the forerunners to the full-scale public trials so eagerly awaited.”
Matt Page, Managing Director UK and Ireland, Assurance at BSI, said: “This technology presents a huge opportunity for the automotive sector and we’re committed to working together with industry to help accelerate innovation whilst ensuring safety.”
Laura Peacock, Innovation Hub Manager at Oxfordshire County Council said: “The progress that has been made in the Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) ecosystem is huge, moving from simulation, trials in isolated environments and now to the first live on-road public trials in Oxford. We are working with partners to create a systematic approach for other local authorities to engage and interact with CAV trials in their regions, which brings us much closer to CAV deployments becoming a reality to bring benefit to our communities and UK PLC.”
Dr Graeme Smith, Senior Vice President at Oxbotica, said: “The first live on-road public trials mark a key landmark for Project Endeavour as we work with local authorities and members of the public in London, Oxford and other major UK cities to shape the future of mobility.”