A project funded by the UK government and industry partners is aiming to develop a self-driving vehicle that's capable of motoring along just like a proficient human driver. Hailed as the "most ambitious connected and autonomous vehicle project in the UK," the HumanDrive vehicle will eventually embark on a journey of more than 200 miles (over 300 km) on public roads throughout the UK, including challenging country roads and motorways.
"Low carbon and self-driving vehicles are the future and they are going to drive forward a global revolution in mobility," said UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clarke. "This revolution has the potential to be worth £52 billion to our economy by 2035 and the opportunity to be at the forefront of this change is one we cannot afford to miss."
Nissan's European Technical Center is leading the 30 month HumanDrive project, which will end in December 2019 with the completion of a complex autonomous journey across the UK. The self-driving vehicle under development by partners including Nissan, Cranfield University, Transport Systems Catapult and Highways England will be expected to deal with numerous driving scenarios, including twisting country roads, high speed roundabouts, major roads and motorways.
"UK roads throw up some particular challenges," Catapult's Mark Westwood is reported to have said. "They are different from American roads, with roundabouts and demanding country lanes. These are really testing environments. This project is about advancing the state of the art and trying to do something more demanding. The control system will learn to drive like a human."
The autonomous driving system will make use of state-of-the-art AI technologies for the vehicle's "artificial driver model," which is being designed to mimic human-like vehicle control and route planning, in live traffic and under different environmental conditions. But before being let loose onto UK roads, the system will undergo stringent testing at a private test track, on small sections of public roads, in simulated environments and other facilities.
HumanDrive is the latest project in the global push to get self-driving cars ferrying occupants around our highways and byways. Alphabet's Waymo, for example, has been at the autonomous game for a number of years now, clocking up millions of miles in the process and recently moving to level 4 autonomy – which means the vehicle can be driven by a human, but can also do well enough on its own to never need human control.
And last year, Nvidia announced an AI supercomputer capable of driving the fully autonomous vehicles of the future, which is already being used by over 25 companies in the development of self-driving vehicles.
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