Driverless pods are to be put through their paces on a simulated version of Coventry, as part of efforts to introduce autonomous vehicles to the UK.
Researchers at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at Warwick University will use a lIDAR scan – a high resolution laser scan – of 30 miles of Coventry’s roads to test the driverless pods.
The project, known as INnovative Testing of Autonomous Control Techniques (INTACT), will trial vehicles developed by Coventry-based automotive innovation specialists RDM, the only manufacturer of driverless pods in the UK.
The project, funded by Innovate UK, will allow the research team to analyse how driverless vehicles will react to real world conditions, before they are deployed on the roads, according to Prof Paul Jennings of WMG.
“There is a lot you can learn in real-world trials, which are hugely valuable, but we would like to focus on the most interesting parts of these trials, and be able to repeat them in a safe and controlled environment,” he said.
This will speed up the testing process, and also help the team to understand where best to position the sensors on the pods, he said. “Effectively we can take some of the risks out of real-world trials, and learn things much more quickly.”
The driverless pods will be tested in WMG’s recently built 3xD simulator (or Drive-in, Driver-in-the-loop, multi-axis driving simulator). The simulator, which was developed with £3.2m funding from EPSRC, has been configured so that a variety of different vehicles can be driven into it for testing.
It has been designed to carefully recreate the real world environment, said Jennings. “As well as being able to recreate the visuals, sounds and road surfaces of the real world, we wanted to also recreate the wireless environment,” he said.
This includes all of the different types of signal that autonomous and connected vehicles will receive, including GPS, optical and ultrasonic radar, and wireless communications.
“It’s going to be important to know how both the car and the driver will behave if things don’t quite go to plan, so we want to be able to look at those scenarios, but in a nice safe repeatable environment,” said Jennings.
RDM Group is taking part in the Lutz Pathfinder trial, a project funded by the Transport Systems Catapult, which will test driverless pods on pavements in Milton Keynes this spring.
The company is also involved in the £20m UK Autodrive consortium, a much larger project to test autonomous vehicles on the streets of Milton Keynes and Coventry.