Four cities to be given formal trials that will last between 18 and 36 months from January 2015
£10 million of funding from Innovate UK has given the green light for testing innovative driverless cars in the real world. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the funding today (Wednesday 3 December) as part of the government’s Autumn Financial Statement.
The following 4 cities will run formal trials that will last between 18 and 36 months from January 2015:
- Greenwich, South East London
- Milton Keynes and Coventry (working together as one project)
Testing driverless cars in a real-world environment will help lead to greater levels of understanding of these vehicles. It will also allow the public to accept how the vehicles will fit into everyday life.
The funding comes through the government’s competition, Introducing driverless cars to UK roads. The aim is to establish the UK as the global hub for the research, development and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies.
Nick Jones, lead technologist for the low carbon vehicle innovation platform at Innovate UK, said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and at Innovate UK, we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.
Jones continued: “There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”
But will driverless cars ever take off due to the feeling of not being in control at the wheel? I drove a top of the range S Class Mercedes recently and it had automatic braking. This meant I never had to touch the break to stop the vehicle as it used the vehicle in front to stop at lights and roundabouts.
The sensation of trusting the technology to stop the car was really strange. It took numerous attempts to let the system do its job, and for me not to hit the break all the time. I did not feel comfortable relying on a computer and would be hesitant at buying or driving a ‘driverless’ car.
One of three projects awarded to test ‘driverless’ vehicles in UK urban locations is a consortium led by TRL has been selected by Innovate UK to deliver the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment). The £8 million GATEway project will see three trials of different types of zero emission automated vehicles within an innovative, technology-agnostic testing environment set in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
The project will build upon Greenwich’s reputation as one of the UK’s premier digital hubs and aims to leave the legacy of a driverless vehicle test environment in Greenwich attracting international manufacturers and associated industries to the UK.
In each of the three trials to be undertaken within the GATEway project, safety will be effectively managed through the careful choice of test environments, vehicle systems and testing protocols and by working closely with the relevant authorities. The purpose of the project is multifaceted. It will demonstrate automated transport systems to public, industry and media stakeholders in the three planned trials. These will include various public tests of fully automated passenger shuttle transport systems and autonomous valet parking for adapted cars. In undertaking these tests, objective and subjective feedback on their use will be captured to build a detailed understanding of the extent to which these systems are used, trusted and accepted.
TRL’s full mission driving simulator, DigiCar, will be used in parallel to investigate driver behaviour with automated vehicles using a photorealistic 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula. Risk, liability and insurance issues will be specifically addressed whilst pedestrian models of interaction with automated vehicles will be developed alongside exploration of adaptation to traffic lights to enable safe and effective automated vehicle operation.
TRL is the lead partner of the GATEway project with the Royal Borough of Greenwich as the testing location and Smart City partner. Three large multinational organisations are involved, RSA, Shell and Telefonica, each with specific interests in how vehicle automation may influence their business models. In addition to experts from TRL, research capability is provided by the Royal College of Art, which is leading stakeholder engagement activities for the project whilst the University of Greenwich and Imperial College London will provide internationally recognised domain specialists in relation to pedestrian modelling and cybersecurity respectively.
The automated vehicle technology to be tested will be provided by Phoenix Wings, a company established in Greenwich that has been involved in worldwide demonstrations of automated transport. Crowd-sourcing experts, Commonplace, will use digital and social media tools to map public responses to the trial whilst additional vehicle adaptation and robotics expertise will be provided by GOBOTiX.
The project is to be supported by a diverse, high calibre advisory group, members of which will review project documentation and provide astute insights to ensure the project meets its objectives and delivers best value for Innovate UK. The advisory group is to be chaired by Lord Borwick of Hawkshead,who has led discussion of vehicle automation in the House of Lords, whilst members of group include representatives from General Motors, ATOS Worldline, the AA, the Highways Agency and the RAC Foundation.
Dr Nick Reed, Principal of Human Factors and Vehicle Automation at TRL and technical lead of the GATEway project said: “At TRL, we are delighted to have been able to bring together this superb consortium in response to the Innovate UK Driverless Car competition and excited to get started on delivery of this genuinely innovative project as one of the winning bidders.
“We have the perfect location in which to demonstrate automated transport systems and our vision is to bring international recognition to Greenwich, London and the UK through this project, establishing the UK as the global centre of excellence for the testing and development of automated vehicles.”
TRL Chief Executive, Rob Wallis said: “TRL has been innovating in the testing and development of automated vehicles for more than fifty years. The GATEway project will allow us to demonstrate new, innovative automated transport systems to drive safe, clean, efficient and flexible urban mobility.
“The combination of TRL’s independent expertise; robust, reliable testing protocols and driving simulation facilities alongside the diverse and high calibre qualities of our consortium means we can safely demonstrate automated vehicles to build acceptance and trust in this revolutionary technology.”
Cllr Denise Hyland, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said: “This is a fantastic coup for the Royal Borough of Greenwich and demonstrates its growing reputation as one of the UK’s leading locations for Smart City innovation.
“The growth of the digital industry is a significant strand of our regeneration plans for the borough and our aim of creating a thriving, cutting edge digital hub is already paying dividends. The businesses we are attracting here will help create job opportunities for local residents and drive forward the borough’s economic growth.”
For all the advances in technology I can see the biggest hurdle facing this project will be public perception and winning the public over. I do believe that the younger generation may embrace the technology, especially if insurance premiums are significantly cheaper.
But what happens with the insurance? angrypolicyholders.com will follow developments with interest as it does raise a lot of questions. If a ‘driverless’ car is involved in an accident who is to blame? Surely if you’re not physically driving liability could rest with the manufacturer?