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Government awards £38 million funding to connected and autonomous vehicle projects

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Connected and autonomous vehicle technology in the UK will take another leap forward following the announcement of funding under the banner of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Three of the chosen projects under the driverless cars stream of ISCF are supported by experts from TRL,which means the global centre for innovation in transport and mobility continues to play an instrumental role in securing the UK’s position at the forefront of advanced vehicle technologies.

The announcement made by Business Secretary Greg Clark confirmed the award of the funding for industry-led research and development projects to deliver the next generation of AI and control systems.

TRL’s involvement in the project consortia will see the organisation’s experts provide guidance on key safety, insurance and technology verification elements.

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 ambitions, in partnership with British businesses, remains 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."

The consortia in which TRL will be involved include Driven – an ambitious project that will see a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles being deployed in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford.

Oxford-based artificial intelligence company Oxbotica is leading the Driven consortium, which benefits from a £8.6 million grant awarded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and delivered through Innovate UK.

These vehicles will be operating at Level 4 autonomy – meaning they have the capability of performing all safety-critical driving functions and monitoring roadway conditions for an entire trip, with zero-passenger occupancy.

No connected and autonomous vehicle trial at this level of complexity and integration has ever been attempted anywhere in the world.

The consortium’s 30-month project plan, which is due to commence in April 2017, will shake-up both the transportation and insurance industries by seeking to remove fundamental barriers to real-world commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Key challenges the consortium will address include: communication and data sharing between connected vehicles; connected and autonomous vehicles insurance modelling: risk profiling and the new cybersecurity challenges that this amount of data sharing will bring.

A major part of the consortium’s work will include the use of a fleet of six inter-communicating vehicles equipped with Selenium, Oxbotica’s vehicle manufacturer (OEM) agnostic software.

As a platform, Selenium provides any vehicle it is applied to with an awareness of where it is, what surrounds it and, with that knowledge in hand, how it should move to complete a task.

The project will radically transform how insurance and autonomous vehicles will work together in connected cities.

A key challenge will be how to insure autonomous fleets of vehicles with the consortium planning to develop a system that automatically takes into account data from the vehicle and external sources that surround it, for example, traffic control systems.

The project will also address data protection and cyber-security concerns raised by international policymakers and law enforcement agencies around the world by defining common security and privacy policies related to connected and autonomous vehicles. 

Besides Oxbotica, other partners involved in the UK project include Oxford Robotics Institute, re/insurer XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, TRL, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.

Professor Paul Newman, head of the Oxford Robotics Institute based at the University of Oxford, and one of Oxbotica’s founders, 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.”

TRL will also be involved in Streetwise – a project to develop and demonstrate the technology, safety validation methods, insurance and service models for delivering an autonomous personal mobility solution targeted at replacing the urban commuter car.

The focus is on reducing costs, cutting accident rates, lowering emissions and minimising congestion.

Click here for autonomous fleet best practice and procurement insight

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