The UK’s biggest trial of autonomous and connected vehicle technology – the UK Autodrive project – has concluded with three days of technology demonstrations across Coventry and Milton Keynes.
As previously reported by The Engineer, the Arup led project – which involves a diverse mix of car-makers, local councils, academic research groups and even experts from the worlds of insurance and law, was launched to prepare society for driverless cars and to position the UK as a hub of connected and autonomous vehicle expertise.
Over the course of the last three years the project partners – who include JLR, Ford, Tata, MIRA HORIBA, the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and a host of other specialists – have carried out a series of trials of increasing complexity and demonstrated a range of technologies both on the test track and on the streets of Milton Keynes and Coventry.
As well as real-world trials of driverless and connected cars – including a prototype Range Rover capable of level 4 autonomy (meaning it is theoretically able to perform all safety-critical driving functions) the project has also developed and trialled a fleet of autonomous pods designed to operate last-mile services in an urban environment.
Developed by Aurrigo, the autonomous vehicles division of Coventry manufacturing specialist RDM Group each of these four-seater Pods can travel at 15mph and cover up to 60 miles on one charge.
The company claimed that the experience gained on UK Autodrive is helping it to gain a foothold in an international market that is now worth £900 million per year. It recently sealed two international distribution agreements with partners in Singapore and Vietnam to start selling its vehicles into Asia. “Being involved as the lead partner in UK Autodrive has transformed our business and given us the opportunity to test our technology alongside some of the world’s largest manufacturers” said the group’s sales and marketing director, Miles Garner.
In an illustration of how pod-cars might be used, participants in the latest Autodrive trials were driven in a JLR connected car to a dedicated pick-up point, with the vehicle communicating to the pods to tell them to pick up their passengers. From here, up passengers were able to get into their allocated Pod which then ferried them directly to the town’s train station.
As well as developing and showcasing technology, UK Autodrive has investigated other important aspects of automated driving – including safety and cyber-security, legal and insurance issues, public acceptance and customer interaction, and the potential business models for turning autonomous driving systems into a widespread reality.
“UK Autodrive has been a hugely successful project that was delivered on time and on budget.” said Arup’s Tim Armitage, UK Autodrive Project Director.