Driverless vehicle developer swarms over new £2m fleet project

RDM Group's Pod Zero

Coventry-based RDM Group has joined forces with WMG at the University of Warwick and Milton Keynes Council to secure a £2m collaboration project developing a fleet of driverless vehicles.

The funding, for a project dubbed Swarm Intelligence (SWARM), has been awarded as part of Innovate UK’s latest funding round.

The concept is based on fusing together existing information from other vehicles in the fleet to allow each unit or pod to locally decide the most appropriate action for the group as a whole – similar to how insects and birds currently behave.

This means that pods can highlight any unexpected behaviour to a supervisor, as well as giving local authorities the chance to take advantage of ‘platooning’, where vehicles follow each other when possible to minimise the number or individual vehicle movements.

The technology also makes the system automatically adapt its behaviour to meet demand so that pods can be optimally distributed within a city to the areas where they are most likely requested.

“Significant time and investment has been channeled into developing on-vehicle driverless technology,” said Simon Brewerton, Chief Technology Officer at RDM Group.

“However, for the economic, social and environmental benefits to be truly realised, traditional swarming approaches developed in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science need to be applied to fleets of autonomous vehicles so that they can function collectively and with maximum efficiency.

“SWARM will be developed over the next two years with a view to starting the three-month trial in April 2019. It will also utilise WMG’s ‘3xD simulator for Intelligent Vehicles’ that will allow multiple virtual pods to be simulated alongside pods operating in real time at two different test sites.”

He said the type of behaviour the project was trying to replicate was the same as that seen in ant colonies and bees, where information is shared between insects to achieve a coordinated goal.

“If we get this right, we’ll improve efficiency of the fleet, reduce human involvement and costs, not to mention maximise the performance of the fleet,” added Mr Brewerton.

RDM Group, which has recently launched offices in Australia and the United States, is pioneering driverless vehicle technologies in the UK.