£20m boost for driverless cars technology

The government has announced £20 million worth of funding to develop the next generation of autonomous vehicles.

Eight new projects have been awarded £20m in funding to research and develop enhanced communication between vehicles and roadside infrastructure or urban information systems, including new ‘talking car technologies’.

The projects are the first to be funded from the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund. They range from developing autonomous shuttles to carry visually-impaired passengers using advanced sensors and control systems, to new simulation trials for autonomous pods to increase uptake and improve real-world trials.

Trials to test driverless cars on the streets are currently being worked on in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, and Greenwich. Autonomous vehicles are also being used in Heathrow to shuttle passengers, although these are currently on designated tracks.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our cars of the future will be equipped with the technologies that will make getting from A to B safer, faster, and cleaner. They will alert drivers of accidents ahead and be able to receive information from their surroundings about hazards, increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

“Britain is a world-leader in research and development in such innovative technologies which improve lives and create opportunity for all. That is why this government has protected the £6 billion science budget and is providing up to £20m for these projects.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “These projects will help profoundly change the way we travel within years, transforming our roads by making travel a simpler experience for drivers, reducing accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly. They will also bring great benefits to our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment.

“This is a landmark moment and will allow Britain to lead the way in the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles.”

TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is part of a consortium of companies that will help position the UK as a world leader in automated and self-driving cars.

Led by Bosch, the MOVE_UK project benefits from a £5.5m grant awarded by InnovateUK and will see driverless technology trialled in real world conditions on roads in Greenwich, London.

Alongside TRL, UK project partners include Bosch, Jaguar Land Rover, Direct Line Group, The Floow and the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Together, the partners will see MOVE_UK accelerate the entry of automated, driverless car technologies to the UK market. The project will increase the rate of development and testing of these technologies at a lower cost to vehicle manufacturers.

During the three-year MOVE_UK project, driverless systems will be tested in the real world, providing large amounts of data that will be used to develop and improve the technology. This data will enable the development of new and faster ways of improving and demonstrating the safety of automated driving systems.

TRL will house and process the data captured, providing essential insight for future tests and informing any regulatory changes that will need to be made.

Rob Wallis, CEO of TRL, said: “TRL is building a strong, reputable portfolio of UK based projects in vehicle automation, and this is another great example of a ground-breaking project in this area. By creating a unique evidence base for automated driving systems, we will not only help to develop and speed up validation of these systems in the UK, but also guide future thinking around the development of virtual and physical testing approaches for years to come.”

Bosch, together with Jaguar Land Rover, will provide vehicles, technology and state-of-the-art design expertise to the project.

Direct Line Group’s contribution to the project will help to bridge the gap between the automotive and insurance industries by providing crucial dialogue and reassessing the risk landscape for automated cars.

The Floow’s telematics will allow the consortium to compare the behaviour of the vehicle to that of a human driver in the same real world environment.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is the host local authority providing a smart city trial environment for the project. The borough is home to the UK’s Smart Mobility Living Lab – an open, real world, test environment for connected and automated vehicles.

The seven other collaborative R&D projects to receive funding are:

  1. UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UKCITE): a project to create the most advanced environment for testing connected and autonomous vehicles. It involves equipping over 40 miles of urban roads, dual-carriageways and motorways with combinations of 3 “talking car technologies” and testing for a fourth, known as LTE-V. The project will establish how this technology can improve journeys; reduce traffic congestion; and provide entertainment and safety services through better connectivity. (Total project: £5.6 million; BIS funding: £3.4 million; duration: 30 months; consortium members: Visteon Engineering Services Limited, Jaguar Land Rover Ltd, Coventry City Council, Siemens PLC, Vodafone Group Services Ltd, Huawei Technologies (UK) Co Ltd, HORIBA MIRA Ltd, Coventry University, University of Warwick (WMG), Highways England Company Ltd.)
  2. Insight: a project to develop driverless shuttles with advanced sensors and control systems and trial them in city pedestrian areas, with a particular focus on improving urban accessibility for disabled and visually-impaired people. (£2.2 million; £1.5 million; 36 months; Westfield Sportscars Limited, Heathrow Enterprises Ltd, Fusion Processing Ltd, Creative Example Ltd, Conigital Ltd, Birmingham City University.)
  3. Tools for autonomous logistics operations and management: this project is a collaboration bringing together transport modellers and the computer games industry to develop new modelling and help improve the return on investment into Connected and Autonomous Vehicle fleets significantly. (£3.2 million; £2 million; 36 months; Immense Simulations Ltd, Improbable Ltd.)
  4. FLOURISH: this project will help develop innovative new tools to improve the understanding of user needs and expectations of connected and autonomous vehicles. It will be based in the Bristol City Region and will test capabilities in both urban and suburban networked environments. (£5.5 million; £3.7 million; 36 months; Atkins Limited, Age UK, Airbus Group Limited, React AI Ltd (Aiseedo), AXA UK plc, Bristol City Council, Imtech Traffic & Infra UK Limited, Office for Public Management Ltd, South Gloucestershire Council, Designability, Transport Systems Catapult, TSS – Transport Simulation Systems Ltd, University of Bristol, University of the West of England, Bristol
  5. INnovative Testing of Autonomous Control Techniques (INTACT): this project will reduce the cost of testing and evaluating autonomous control systems in a safe, repeatable, controlled and scientifically rigorous environment. (£1 million; £850k; 24 months; Richmond Design and Marketing Ltd, University of Warwick.)
  6. Pathway to Autonomous Commercial Vehicles: this project will develop an innovative solution to monitor key information from the vehicle and predict safety risks based on analytics. It will build on a prototype which monitors tyre pressures and temperatures in commercial vehicles, combined with always-on network connection. (£1.2 million; £900k; 24 months; Tructyre Fleet Management Ltd, University of Portsmouth, Satellite Applications Catapult, RL Automotive.)
  7. i-MOTORS – Intelligent Mobility for Future Cities Transport Systems: i-MOTORS will deliver a connected Vehicle to Anything (V2X) system via a mobile platform as a proof of concept. In addition, the project will develop hardware which will receive and analyse sensory data in real-time from multiple locations via online cloud technology to raise the standard of data-processing in the connected and autonomous driving industry.

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