UK’s largest autonomous vehicle tests move to public roads

Posted on 21 Nov 2017 by Jonny Williamson

The UK’s largest trial of connected and autonomous vehicle technology, UK Autodrive project, has reached a critical stage in its development with the first tests on public streets of Central Coventry.

Connected & Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies -Safe Pullaway is an assistance system to prevent low speed collisions - image courtesy of JLR.
The UK Autodrive project is starting in-city trials on the streets of central Coventry. – image courtesy of JLR.

Project partners Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) have begun to collaboratively trial a number of connected car features in the city, with JLR and TMETC also separately trialling their own autonomous vehicle research technologies.

The connected car trials are exploring the benefits of having cars that can “talk” to each other and their surroundings – with connected traffic lights, emergency vehicle warnings and emergency braking alerts among the technologies being trialled.

The JLR and TMETC autonomous vehicle research technology trials are being used to develop self-driving vehicle technology in a real-world setting, but with highly trained test operators supervising the cars at all times.

Further trials are scheduled to take place in Coventry and Milton Keynes early next year followed by a final series of open road demonstration events in both cities during the second half of 2018.

Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director, said: ““The fundamental purpose of UK Autodrive is to get connected and autonomous vehicle technology out onto UK roads, so the start of trialling on the streets of Coventry is clearly a major landmark both for the project and for the UK as a whole.”

“Our previous private test track trials showed that the technology works but it is only on real roads that we will start to see the scale of the benefits that it can bring to the general public.”

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “I’m really pleased that the UK’s first collaborative on-road trialling of autonomous and connected vehicles is taking place in Coventry – the birthplace of the motor car.

“This new technology is moving rapidly and this is an important step and one we are all very excited about. Autonomous and connected cars will be a reality in the near future and I am confident they will help to boost safety, reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“Along with battery technology they will also help to create thousands of new jobs in the automotive sector and its supply chain. It’s right that Coventry is at the heart of all of this innovation, so we are pleased that these trials are happening here.”

As well as the on-road testing of connected and autonomous cars in Milton Keynes and Coventry, UK Autodrive is also trialling a fleet of up to 40 self-driving pavement-based ‘pod’ vehicles in Milton Keynes, with both types of vehicle due to take part in the project’s final technology demonstrations next year.

The full list of UK Autodrive programmes:

  • Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) – Sends a signal directly from the emergency vehicle (eg ambulance, fire engine, police vehicle) to nearby connected cars. The driver is informed that the emergency vehicle is approaching and advised to make way for it.
  • Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) – Warns the driver when it is unsafe to enter an intersection, due to a high probability of collision with other vehicles.
  • In-Vehicle Signage (IVS) – Sends information about road conditions, congestion or other incidents directly to the in-car display, rather than having to rely on expensive gantry systems.
  • Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) – Alerts the driver when a vehicle in front suddenly brakes, providing advanced warning, especially when the driver is unable to see the lights of the braking vehicle due to weather conditions, road layout or other vehicles in between.
  • Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) – Sends traffic light information to the connected car which is able to calculate the optimal speed for approaching the lights, potentially minimising the number of red light stops, improving traffic flow and reducing emission levels from idling vehicles.
  • Intersection Priority Management (IPM) – Assigns priority when two or more connected vehicles come to an intersection without priority signs or traffic lights.
  • Collaborative Parking – Provides real-time information about free parking spaces either in the vicinity or close to the driver’s final destination.