UK roads to become connected and autonomous vehicle test-track
Miles of roads in the UK are to be used for testing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. The £5.5 m (US$7.9 m) UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UK-CITE) project will allow new tech to be evaluated in real-world driving conditions. It will help to make driving safer, to reduce journey times and to prevent traffic jams.
UK-CITE is one of eight projects that have received £20 m (US$28.8 m) from the UK government's Intelligent Mobility Fund. The funding is aimed at helping to develop the next generation of autonomous vehicles and is supplemented with investment from academia and industry.
The UK-CITE connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) test corridor includes 41-mi (66-km) of roads around the city of Coventry and the town of Solihull. It comprises a mix of urban roads, dual-carriageways and motorways that will be equipped with 4G/LTE, Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), LTE-V (a more advanced version of LTE) and local Wi-Fi hotspots.
These wireless connectivity technologies will allow for the testing of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and "over the horizon" warnings. It will be possible, for example, to test how connected cars can communicate to make lane changing and junction exiting safer and more efficient, how above-road warning messages might instead be sent to and displayed on car dashboards and how drivers might receive in-car alerts about approaching connected emergency vehicles.
A fleet of 100 connected and autonomous technology research vehicles will be tested on the CAV test corridor. Among the test companies will be Jaguar Land Rover, which is one of a number of organizations that has contributed investment to the project.
"This real-life laboratory will allow Jaguar Land Rover's research team and project partners to test new connected and autonomous vehicle technologies on five different types of roads and junctions," says director of research and technology at Jaguar Land Rover Dr Wolfgang Epple in a press release. "The connected and autonomous vehicle features we will be testing will improve road safety, enhance the driving experience, reduce the potential for traffic jams and improve traffic flow. These technologies will also help us meet the increasing customer demand for connected services while on the move."
Seven other projects have received funding from the Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Insight is a project to develop driverless shuttles with advanced sensors and control systems to be trialed in pedestrianized areas of cities. The project has a particular focus on improving urban accessibility for the disabled and visually-impaired. Transport modelers and the computer games industry will collaborate through the Tools for autonomous logistics operations and management project to develop new approaches for autonomous logistics operations and management and to help improve the return on investment of connected and autonomous vehicle fleets.
FLOURISH will develop new tools for understanding the needs and expectations of connected and autonomous vehicle users. MOVE-UK aims at accelerating the development, market readiness and deployment of automated driving systems. INnovative Testing of Autonomous Control Techniques (INTACT) seeks to reduce the cost of testing and evaluating autonomous control systems in a safe, repeatable, controlled and scientifically rigorous environment.
The aim of the Pathway to Autonomous Commercial Vehicles project is to develop an innovative means of monitoring vehicle information and of predicting safety risks based on analytics. And i-MOTORS – Intelligent Mobility for Future Cities Transport Systems is looking to deliver a proof-of-concept vehicle-to-anything communications system via a mobile platform and to develop hardware and cloud systems for analyzing vehicle sensor data in real-time.
Sources: UK government, Jaguar Land Rover
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Anyone who has visited the U.K. and noted its eccentricity (look at their electrical plugs and light bulbs for example) will understand the need for a global set of standards for the associated technology so that when this system goes live, so to speak, all road vehicles will be driveable anywhere, and certainly no special roads for the 'one percent'. I hope that for at least some of the time GPS jammers and other such disruptive technologies will be part of the test mix.
Go forward twenty to thirty years when all the current fleet has gone to the great scrap-heap in the sky and this technology will be a lot safer. The sooner that current fleet is manufactured with the ability to retro-fit the developed technology, the sooner will that day come.
Having said all that, I sincerely hope that part of the brief for this project is to facilitate the production of a standard for semi-autonomous vehicles that retain a role for the 'driver' as the one ultimately responsible when the inevitable accidents occur, because I am totally convinced that that is as far as this technology will develop, even though the roads will be safer. One has only to look at dash-cam videos to see that that is the case. Unfortunately, it is the technology that will be blamed, not, as at present, the individual drivers who are deemed culpable.