The first live trials of Project Endeavour’s autonomous vehicle fleet have begun on roads in Oxford in the UK. The government-backed R&D project will run until autumn 2021, with live tests in three major UK cities.
The trials are aimed at demonstrating autonomous driving in a variety of urban and city environments, in order to develop engagement models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for the future launch of autonomous vehicle services.
The consortium, part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, uses a combination of advanced simulations and on-road demonstrations to help accelerate and scale the deployment and adoption of autonomous vehicles.
A fleet of six Ford Mondeo vehicles, equipped by specialist Oxbotica to be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, will complete a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford’s main train station. Trials will be run at all times of day and night, allowing the vehicles to experience a range of traffic scenarios from morning commutes to school runs, in a range of weather conditions.
Launched in September 2019, the project has brought together Oxbotica, an autonomous software developer, urban innovators DG Cities and Immense, a transportation simulation company. Ahead of the public trials, three new consortium partners were added to the project: the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the British Standards Institution (BSI) and Oxfordshire County Council.
The trio of new partners will focus on the development of a new safety assurance assessment scheme against PAS 1881 standard for public autonomous trials, helping inspire trust and define a consistent approach to safety that will enable future deployments to happen efficiently without slowing down the rate of innovation.
Camilla Fowler, head of automation at TRL, commented, “Trials of Level 4 vehicles are an important milestone, keeping the UK at the head of the field in bringing the benefits of this technology into mainstream use. These exciting trials, and what we learn about assuring safety and encouraging interoperability, will open up new opportunities for many more research demonstrations across the UK, which are the forerunners to the full-scale public trials so eagerly awaited.”