The DRIVEN consortium has unveiled the first of the Level 4 self-driving cars that will be tested on the streets of Oxford next year and on journeys to and from London in 2019.
Graeme Smith, project director and CEO of Oxbotica, which is leading the consortium, said: ‘While local residents around our Oxford office will have had a few sneak previews of our first vehicle, now everyone can see our Land Rover Evoque, Ford Mondeo and Ford Fusion as they will appear early next year in self-driving mode on public roads around Oxford and then along the Oxford to London corridor.’
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘High visibility branding of the test vehicles is a good thing, as they move from extensive off-road trials to streets where they’ll be mixing with everyday traffic, so that we know not to panic when we see one approaching with no-one holding the steering wheel.
‘Possibly the most important thing about these trials is not the development of the technology as such but the building of our confidence in how it works, because that will be key to public acceptance of driverless vehicles both as road users and in time as potential passengers.’
The project will see a fleet of Level 4 autonomous vehicles being deployed in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in multiple end-to-end journeys between London and Oxford in 2019. A vehicle operating at Level 4 autonomy has the capability to drive itself most of the time without any human input.
Testing of key manoeuvres with the vehicles is already taking place at RACE’s autonomous vehicle test facility at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. During testing, fully licensed and specially trained safety drivers will be in the vehicles at all times.
DRIVEN will be organising a public demonstration of its self-driving vehicles on selected roads around Oxford in early 2018.
Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire CC, said: ‘Oxfordshire County Council has a great deal invested in this ground-breaking work and is playing a major part in making it a success.
‘As the organisation responsible for the county’s local roads we are engaging with technology providers to deploy sensors and equipment on our assets which will allow the cars to navigate the routes successfully.’