The government-backed Project Endeavour initiative arrives in Birmingham following similar trials in Oxford and will culminate with a final demonstration at a showcase event in Greenwich in August 2021.
The Project Endeavour trial will feature four Ford Mondeo vehicles fitted with LiDAR, radar and stereo cameras and integrated with Oxbotica’s autonomy software. The fleet is capable of Level 4 autonomous driving and will operate in a five-mile area around Lea Hall station, between Birmingham International Airport and the city centre. Safety drivers will take control of the vehicles should mishaps occur.
The trials will give Oxbotica’s autonomous vehicles the opportunity to experience numerous traffic scenarios and weather conditions throughout the day. The routes include roundabouts, traffic lights, and junctions in industrial and residential areas.
Launched in March 2019, the consortium project, part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, is being led by Oxbotica, in collaboration with DG Cities, Immense, TRL, BSI, and Oxfordshire County Council. It is designed to accelerate the deployment of autonomous vehicle services across the UK.
In a statement, Dr Graeme Smith, senior vice president at Oxbotica and director of Project Endeavour, said: “This stage of the mobility project is a new step for us, as Birmingham hosts our fleet of autonomous vehicles for the first time in real-life environments, and there has been a huge amount of enthusiasm from the local authority in the UK’s second largest city ahead of the deployment.
“So far, Project Endeavour has been a real collaborative effort, bringing everyone into the discussion: from local authorities, to road safety groups, transport providers, and, most importantly, the general public.”
As part of the deployment, Birmingham City Council is said to be keen to understand the impact that autonomous vehicle services could have on areas with limited connectivity, and on how improving access to employment hubs could boost job opportunities and reduce private vehicle use.