The live trial has been conducted by Oxbotica and TRL in a pilot of the first Code of Practice for autonomous vehicles in unstructured off-highway environments.
Off-road environments – such as mines, quarries, farms, refineries, warehouses, ports, and airports - feature more hazards and less structured scenarios than on-road settings with no universal highway rules. Off-road vehicles are presented also with objects that can block the vehicle’s path, such as undergrowth or tree branches, or objects that should be engaged with as part of the vehicle’s primary function, such as harvesting or excavating.
Autonomous vehicles are becoming commonplace in many industries and a Code of Practice is expected to help organisations transition to new working practices and harness the potential benefits of vehicle autonomy with no impact on safety.
“This Code of Practice seeks to provide high-level guidance to organisations, in all sectors of the off-highway industry, on the ways in which working practices should be adapted to ensure that the adoption of autonomy is as smooth and safe as possible,” said Dr Ianto Guy, project lead at TRL.
Oxbotica and TRL are an Innovate UK-funded consortium that has developed and demonstrated capabilities to adapt and retrofit autonomy to any vehicle, as well as drafting the Code of Practice.
To demonstrate the Code Of Practice and highlight its potential across a range of vehicles and industries, Oxbotica and TRL deployed a Ford Ranger and Range Rover Evoque in a UK quarry in April 2021. The vehicles were fitted with Oxbotica’s software and a suite of sensors including LiDAR, RADAR, and stereo cameras. The software is capable of using sensors independently or fused in any combination, which allows vehicles to drive with or without maps, depending what is available at any given time.
In a statement, Ben Upcroft, VP of Technology at Oxbotica, said: “Our autonomy software platform is capable of being integrated with any vehicle, in any environment. In order to harness the true power of this technology, operational regulations need to be developed in unison to ensure safe and efficient deployment. Consortiums such as this are a key stepping stone in ensuring the safe operation of autonomous vehicles in complex scenarios, and enabling the scale up to full commercial deployment in industry settings.”