The recent announcement of an extra £38 million of funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) signals another leap forward for connected and autonomous vehicle technology in the UK. Business Secretary Greg Clark confirmed the award of funding to support research and development projects promising to produce the next generation of artificial intelligence and control systems in driverless vehicles.
Three of the projects chosen to be recipients of the funding are supported by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) whose experts provide guidance on a range of topics from safety to insurance and more. As a result, the global hub for innovation in transport and mobility will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring the UK is a leading player in the advanced vehicle technology industry.
Rob Wallis, CEO at TRL, said: 'We continue to see a major industry shift towards automation, connectivity and electrification of vehicles, and the use of shared mobility schemes. "Such market disruption is transforming the way people will travel, especially in cities, and it is vital that the UK remains at the forefront of this development.
'TRL believes the UK Government's CAV (connected and autonomous vehicle) ambitions, in partnership with British businesses, remain critical in ensuring the UK plays its role as a major global innovator within this fast-changing market. TRL is proud to be engaged in an ever-increasing programme of innovative CAV initiatives, building on its many decades of experience in this field."
Among the newly-funded projects involving TRL is Driven. Oxbotica, an artificial intelligence company based in Oxford, is leading the Driven consortium, which will now benefit from an £8.6 million grant awarded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK. Key challenges the consortium seeks to address include communication and data sharing between connected vehicles, insurance modelling and risk profiling for CAVs, as well as new cybersecurity requirements associated with data sharing on this scale.
A significant aspect of the consortium's work includes an inspiring project aiming to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles on motorways and in urban areas, concluding with a complete journey from London to Oxford. The inter-communicating vehicles will reportedly operate at Level 4 autonomy, capable of performing all critical driving functions for an entire trip, achieved using Selenium, Oxbotica's vehicle manufacturer-agnostic software. Selenium allows any equipped vehicle to understand where it is located, what surrounds it and how to move in order to complete tasks. Connected and autonomous vehicles of this complexity have to be trialled anywhere in the world.
Another crucial challenge is the development of workable insurance policies for autonomous fleets. The consortium is currently working on a system which gathers data from the vehicle and its surroundings, such as traffic controls for instance.
The project will also aim to address concerns around cybersecurity and data protection raised by policymakers and law enforcement agencies by defining common policies and practises for CAVs.
Professor Paul Newman, co-founder of Oxbotica and head of the Oxford Robotics Institute at the University of Oxford, said: 'Driven is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other. "We're moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles, and what's interesting to us at the Oxford Robotics Institute is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.'
Iwan Parry, head of insurance at TRL, added: 'To support the successful adoption of CAVs, it is important to consider all of the elements around safety, insurance and traffic management alongside the technology itself. "Through Driven, TRL will work with consortia partners to develop a structure for an integrated transport approach that sees vehicles connect seamlessly to urban traffic control systems. Innovative and dynamic insurance methodologies are also vital to ensure a confident reception to CAVs on UK roads.'
As well as Oxbotica, other partners working on the project include XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, the UK Atomic Energy Authority's RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.
Another project supported by TRL, with the stated aim of cutting costs, accident rates, emissions and congestions, is Streetwise. Its intention is to develop the necessary technology, safety validation methods, insurance and service models to deliver a personal autonomous mobility solution, designed to eventually replace the contemporary commuter car.