Driverless cars take a step forward by showing how they can operate safely in London

…Industry and Government funded project DRIVEN, shows that autonomous vehicles can operate safely in London’s complex urban environment, cementing the UK’s leadership in this area…

LONDON, 2nd October: The DRIVEN consortium today celebrated a key milestone in this 30-month government-supported project by demonstrating the capabilities of a fleet of self-driving vehicles in London’s challenging and complex urban environment.

The jointly-funded £13.6m programme, which is the most ambitious of its kind, gave a week-long demonstration around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford—establishing the UK’s world-leading autonomous vehicle (AV) technology in challenging every-day conditions. The DRIVEN programme – powered by Oxbotica’s autonomous software – confirms that autonomous vehicles can operate smoothly, safely and legally in complex real-life situations, with a safety driver present, on typical public roads in Europe’s biggest mega-city.

DRIVEN has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges facing self-driving vehicles in the cities of London and Oxford, going beyond the technical obstacles and examining the entire autonomous vehicle ‘ecosystem’. It combines a wide range of technical experts in areas such as local authority planning, insurance, cyber-security and data trading. The coalition of experts include Oxbotica, Oxford Robotics Institute, Axa XL, Nominet, Telefonica, TRL, RACE, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and Transport for London (TfL). The project is adhering fully to the Department for Transport’s Code of Practice and Transport for London’s (TfL) recently published London-specific guidance for Connected and Autonomous Trials.

Minister of State at the Department for Transport, George Freeman MP, said:

Self-driving technology has the scope to revolutionise the way people travel, with potentially profound benefits for road safety, accessibility and ​convenience. ​We want to drive the roll-out of self-driving vehicles and continue to support innovators developing this ground-breaking technology. The success of trials like project DRIVEN underpin our Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy, highlighting our ongoing support for innovation, research and the trialling of exciting new technology which cements our position as a global leader in this space.”

Speaking on the significance of the event, DRIVEN Programme Director and Oxbotica Senior Vice President, External Affairs, Dr Graeme Smith said:

“The completion of the DRIVEN project marks a significant milestone for the future of autonomous vehicles in the UK. Establishing Britain as a world leader for innovative technologies has been at the heart of our mission and we’re incredibly proud of the steps we have taken to help make AVs a reality on our roads.”  

From Nominet and Axa XL’s collaboration developing situational risk management capabilities, to ORI’s data trading algorithms and O2’s role in ensuring safe and secure communications, DRIVEN has proved invaluable in fostering meaningful technological developments in the autonomous vehicle space. Similarly, OCC, TfL, RACE and TRL’s work has contributed to safe trials across a range of locations, helping cement the UK as a global testbed for innovation.

The £13.6m DRIVEN initiative – with matched funding from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and industry – has sought to address fundamental real-world challenges facing self-driving vehicles. It has focused on completing fully autonomous routes within the dense complex urban environments of London and Oxford, showing Oxbotica’s UK-developed technology’s competitive advantage in such environments.

The prototype vehicles have succeeded driving in complex urban environments without the need for human input, exceeding the initial plan in terms of complexity and achievement. This means that fully autonomous vehicles have made an important step forward towards everyday operation on our roads.

Additional quotes from DRIVEN partners

Ozgur Tohumcu, CEO of Oxbotica: “These trials further demonstrate to the wider UK public that connected and autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of transport. This milestone shows the advanced state of our capabilities and confirms that Oxbotica is well placed to lead the commercial rollout of AVs globally.”

Adam Leach, Managing Director of New Ventures, Nominet: “For autonomous cars to become mainstream, the correct framework must be in place so they can run safely and effectively. We have played a key part in DRIVEN, developing and applying cyber security tools, technologies and expertise to CAVs and the supporting digital infrastructure which is vital to the future development of this sector. Working as part of this strong consortium, and other projects in future, we will continue to tackle the key challenges presented by the changing landscape of cyber-security.”

Michael Hurwitz, Director of Innovation, Transport for London: “Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to significantly change travel – and that’s why the Mayor’s Transport Strategy commits us to engaging with innovative companies, both now and in the future, at the earliest available opportunity. TfL recently published new London-specific guidance for autonomous vehicle trials which it expects all organisations to adhere to. It promotes responsible and safe trials, as well as encouraging trials which are environmentally friendly and benefit the city, complementing our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport. Being part of trials like DRIVEN helps to ensure companies really understand London’s transport priorities and the need for the technology to develop in a way which supports our goals.”

Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Innovation, Oxfordshire County Council: “The DRIVEN project has been a key project in not only enabling the Council to engage and understand how CAV can work to solve some of our mobility problems but also as to galvanise the Council’s commitment to Innovation, we now have one of the largest teams in the UK utilising external and partnership funding to deliver Innovation across many of our functions in Oxfordshire and much of that has stemmed from initial days of working with DRIVEN partners so the impact has gone way beyond CAV sector itself.”

Iwan Parry, Market Development Lead for New Mobility, TRL: “The DRIVEN autonomous vehicle project has seen a number of milestones come to fruition over the last two years. As part of this innovative project, we have been engaging with the insurance sector to help them understand the evidence they require to adapt their business and insurance pricing models when underwriting connected and automated vehicle trials, in readiness for commercial deployment of CAVs at scale in the UK. We are also using the lessons learned from the DRIVEN trials in the safety framework we are developing as part of the new specifications for regulating the safe conduct of technology testing on public roads in the UK.”

Adrian Copland, COO, Accelerate, Axa XL: “Autonomous technologies will have an incredible impact on society, from creating safer working environments to providing mobility for those most in need. We were delighted to be able to bring our risk management and insurance capabilities to the DRIVEN projects all while learning first-hand about the risks associated with the technology. The knowledge we have acquired through our involvement in DRIVEN has already allowed us to provide insurance solutions to a number of our clients’ autonomy initiatives.”

John Aloy, Managing Partner – Travel and Transport, O2 – Telefonica UK: “At Telefonica O2 we are proud to have played a part in this ground-breaking project. Being involved in such trials allows us to see how secure reliable communications are crucial to the success of CAV’s and helps us assess how we can support the future network demands of CAV’s and the supporting infrastructure. We continue to work in collaboration with leading British Innovators, UK Government and UK CAV Test Beds in order to ensure we adequately addresses the current and future digital needs of our emerging CAV / ITS communities.”

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