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Connected cars project aims to end motorway pile-ups

A new consortium has been awarded government funding for the development and trial of technology that could reduce the number of multi-car collisions on motorways.

The Multi-Car Collision Avoidance (MuCCA) project will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to help cars and eventually autonomous vehicles make cooperative decisions to avoid a potential accident.

Led by automotive design and testing experts IDIADA in partnership with Cranfield University, Westfield Sports Cars, Cosworth, Secured by Design and Transport Systems Catapult, the project will also develop data logging capabilities to create a record of the exact causes of accidents.

A computer-simulated environment will also be created, in which the vehicles’ AI systems can practise complex crash scenarios before being trialled on real-world test tracks.

The trial will also require the MuCCA system equipped vehicles to predict the likely movements of cars controlled by human drivers using AI methods. If the MuCCA-controlled vehicles cannot avoid an accident altogether, the aim will be to minimise the consequences.

Charlie Wartnaby, chief engineer from IDIADA said: “The beauty of connected vehicles is that they can share and combine sensor data with other vehicles, making them more than the sum of their parts. We can use this ability to allow machine logic to take control of a group of vehicles such that they work together in an emergency to avoid an accident, deciding optimal joint trajectories to avoid complex collisions with both human and machine-driven vehicles in a way that human drivers could not. Even a single MuCCA vehicle will have superlative collision avoidance capability using its 360-degree prediction of human-driven vehicles around it.”

Currently around 5,500 accidents happen per year on UK motorways, contributing to over 1,730 annual deaths and over 22,000 serious injuries on all roads. Incidents on the motorway network also cause delays and congestions which can have a serious economic impact on UK businesses, costing around £21 billion a year according to recent estimates.

Wartnaby added: “Connected and Autonomous Vehicle technology offers us an opportunity to work towards the elimination of serious accidents on our roads, saving lives and easing congestion. In this project, we will aim to show exactly how this can be done, whilst taking us another step closer to fully autonomous cars.”

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