England: Introduction of Self-Driving Vehicles to the UK

UK Autodrive, a consortium of leading technology and automotive businesses including international law firm Gowling WLG, has launched its Final Project Report addressing the future of autonomous vehicle development in the UK. Download the Final Report here.

In December 2014 UK Autodrive was named as the largest of three successful consortia to be selected in response to Innovate UK's "Introducing driverless cars to UK roads" competition. In late 2018 the project successfully concluded, with the world's first multi-modal journey featuring connected and autonomous road- and pavement-based vehicles.

The findings and successes of the project have been detailed in a Final Report, released today. The report is freely available to download for anyone interested in how industry and government are looking to address future mobility challenges.

Stuart Young, Head of Automotive at Gowling WLG, said: "As an integral part of UK Autodrive, we're thrilled to have been involved in moulding the development and delivery of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) over the last four years. The Final Project Report represents the culmination of the consortium's achievements and a mammoth step towards future autonomy - from concept to reality - bringing fully connected and self-driving vehicles to the UK's roads".

"As a firm we're passionate about furthering driverless vehicle automation and will continue to offer our expertise to automotive and technology businesses to ensure the future of CAV development. Gowling WLG will be releasing further reports into future mobility, starting with our 'CAVs - Driving social Change' white paper, launching in June, discussing the need for UK policy to change to maximise the social benefits of CAVs."

The project had three main elements: a 'Cars' programme, focused on the development and trialling of connected and autonomous passenger cars; a 'Pods' programme, focused on the development and trialling of a new form of 'last-mile' electric-powered pod vehicle; and a 'Cities' programme, aimed at helping cities to understand how they could best facilitate and benefit from automated transport systems.

Jaguar Land Rover, TATA Motors and the RDM Group significantly advanced their autonomous technology capabilities during the project. The project highlighted several remaining challenges that will need to be addressed in future development of autonomous vehicle technology, including:

  • what levels of integration are necessary with road infrastructure, including traffic signals;
  • minimising any issues related to time synchronisation between system components, with a key project learning being that distributed systems are highly reliant on their networking;
  • the handling of pedestrians, with restrictions on areas where pedestrians cross roads recommended during future trials, and as long as in-vehicle pedestrian prediction models remain in a relatively immature state;
  • the need to correct for three-dimensional 'imperfections' on real road surfaces compared to two-dimensional mapping software (e.g. potholes, speed bumps); and
  • the current unsuitability of GPS as the sole source of traffic lane-level localisation (Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre teams both confirmed that GPS localisation was not sufficiently precise without these additional systems.

In terms of connected (V2V/X) technologies, during the project partners were able to test, develop and refine seven connected car features to the point that they could be successfully showcased in the two host cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry as part of the project's final demonstrations in October 2018.

The Emergency Vehicle Warning and Collaborative Parking features were judged to have worked particularly effectively, and could be seen as offering real-world benefits in the near future once sufficiently developed for use in production vehicles. The Electronic Emergency Brake Light feature was also considered as having strong potential to reduce road accidents.

In addition to leading the way in developing and showcasing the autonomous and connected technologies, UK Autodrive investigated other important aspects of automated driving - including safety and cyber-security, legal and insurance issues, public acceptance and customer interaction, and the potential business models for turning autonomous driving systems into a widespread reality.

Gowling WLG's partners in the UK Autodrive consortium were Arup, Milton Keynes Council, Coventry City Council, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Company, Tata Motors European Technical Centre, RDM Group, HORIBA-MIRA, AXA, Thales, Connected Places Catapult, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and the Open University.