In a press release issued on the 24 April 2017, the UK government had announced an investment of £13 million dedicated to the largest test of self-driving vehicle technology to date – a fleet of driverless cars with UK-built software are set to travel the 100 km distance between the cities of London and Oxford in 2019.
As a precaution, the cars will have safety drivers on board in case of unexpected situations or potential (although, presumably, unlikely) technical malfunction.
The cars will communicate with each other about any hazards and go down in history as subjects of the first high-speed test of the technology on public roads in the UK.
The project will be implemented by the DRIVEN consortium, comprised of Oxbotica, Oxford Robotics Institute, XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.
“We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project,” said Dr. Graeme Smith, chief executive of the award-winning driverless car developer Oxbotica.
Before the historic outing scheduled to take place 30 months from now, extensive testing will be carried out on the 10 km of closed roads at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, where Oxbotica has been conducting its main test activities in the RACE (Remote Application of Challenging Environments) building.
According to the press release, the site is a perfect test track where the vehicles will be tested for their ability to “react to other vehicles, cyclists and people in realistic circumstances” regardless of weather conditions.
“RACE has been working with Oxbotica for some time now. The DRIVEN team brings together the right combination of interests and enthusiasm to change the conversation in this exciting field from mostly speculation to real world detail. DRIVEN will show how autonomous vehicles will change the world, both for the public and industrial users,” said RACE Director Rob Buckingham.
The consortium is already thinking about ways of implementing driverless car technology in Oxford and Didcot Garden Town in the near future.