Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL), a UK government-backed initiative aimed at readying London for the arrival of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), has begun constructing its first test routes around the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The project will create a total of 24km (15 miles) of fixed infrastructure, offering monitored junctions, features and roads. There are also several more miles of unmonitored roads across the testbed which would be suitable for the testing CAVs, depending on the organization’s requirements and level of testing.
“We recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work when we’re talking about real-world urban environments, so our approach at SMLL is to empower customers to build out test routes and features according to their own goals and readiness,” said Paul Zanelli, director engineering and technology for Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the leading organization behind SMLL.
“Based on a comprehensive set of potential use cases for the testbed, a host of ‘trip generators’ or points of interest (such as EV chargepoints) have been identified. These will help satisfy the needs of customers wanting to test their new technologies and services in London as a way of further validating their offerings. Meanwhile, sensors at points of intersection with alternative modes of transport will make beta testing and demand modeling possible for new mobility services.”
The monitoring equipment covers a range of highway features at increasing levels of complexity, each designated as either green (simple), amber (moderately complex) or red (complex) zones to help train AI systems.
Whilst high-risk areas such as schools, roads which congest at peak times, and places with heavy pedestrian traffic were deliberately avoided, monitoring infrastructure has been installed as close as possible to key facilities such as hospitals, as they tend to have less predictable traffic patterns and therefore best reflect the complexity of a real-world urban environment.
Every site is remotely monitored by live CCTV for safety purposes and has a sensor array for sharing and collection data from the vehicle systems being tested. The entire monitored infrastructure also exists as a digital twin environment. This will enable simulated modeling and testing ahead of progressing to live testing on public roads, or as an alternative for products still in early development.
Some of the monitored features include a bus stop, speed hump, filter lane, roundabout, pedestrian crossing, chicane, signalized junction, cycle lane, property entrance and an EV charge point.
SMLL customers can create their own route by selecting features of particular interest to them, offering the opportunity to progressively intensify the challenge to CAVs and V2X applications.
“We see the successful deployment of CAVs as integral to the future of London if it is to become a true smart city,” added Zanelli.
“The SMLL will enable rigorous and robust testing in a real-world urban environment, to help ensure that new innovations, especially ones as significant as CAVs, are not only safety executed, but are also accessible to as many Londoners as possible.”