Smart vehicle technology cleared to start street trials

The UK’s largest collaborative trial of connected and autonomous vehicle technology has been given the green light to move out onto city streets.

Partners in the UK Autodrive consortium – Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) – will test their connected car technologies at the HORIBA MIRA proving ground in Nuneaton today.

The technologies will go on to be trialled on the roads of Milton Keynes and Coventry as part of the three-year £20m UK Autodrive research and development project, jointly funded by government and industry.

UK Autodrive is the first project in the UK to showcase the benefits of the technology, which demonstrates how multiple makes of car can use their systems to ‘talk’ to each other.

Three different demonstrations will be taking place, the first – Emergency Vehicle Warning – showcases cars that can warn their drivers when an emergency vehicle is approaching thereby minimising congestion and potentially reducing the time it takes for ambulances, police cars and fire engines to reach their destination.

The second demonstration – Intersection Collision Warning – shows how connected cars are able to detect the presence of other connected cars on the approach to a junction, thereby minimising the risk of a collision.

The final demonstration involves In-Vehicle Signage, whereby connected cars receive traffic information sent from road-side units, ensuring that drivers do not miss out on important notifications, such as changes of speed limit or temporary lane closures.

JLR will also use today’s event to demonstrate its Autonomous Urban Drive technology.

An automated Range Rover Sport fitted with the prototype technology will navigate its way around an urban-style road network, successfully negotiating roundabouts and junctions while also steering around obstacles.

Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director, said: “The successful completion of the proving ground trials marks a significant milestone for the project team, and we are now looking forward to demonstrating the benefits of these exciting new technologies in the real-world settings of Milton Keynes and Coventry.

“Once the technology becomes widely available, we anticipate huge potential benefits in terms of road safety, improved traffic flow and general access to transport, so we’re really excited about being able to demonstrate this on real roads.”

The first set of public road trials are due to take place in Milton Keynes and Coventry by the end of this year, initially on segregated sections of roads, before evolving into open road trials and demonstrations as the project draws to a close in summer 2018.

A fleet of up to 40 self-driving pavement-based ‘pod’ vehicles will also be introduced in pedestrianised sections of central Milton Keynes as a separate part of the project.

The timing of the test is significant given the announcement of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

The legislation proposes to extend compulsory motor vehicle insurance to cover the use of automated vehicles, allow the government to install EV charging points at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers and to introduce common technical and operational standards. This will ensure there is a network of charge points across the UK.

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