Live trials of an autonomous vehicle fleet begin this week in Oxford under the government-backed Project Endeavour research and development programme.
A fleet of six Ford Mondeo vehicles capable of Level 4 autonomous driving - fully autonomous but only in controlled areas - are set to complete a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford's main train station.
Trials will be run at all times of day and night, allowing the autonomous vehicles to experience a range of traffic scenarios from morning commutes to school runs. The vehicles come from Oxbotica, a global leader in autonomous software founded in 2014 by Oxford professors Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner.
Dr Graeme Smith, senior vice president at Oxbotica and Project Endeavour consortium director, said: 'The first live on-road public trials mark a key landmark for Project Endeavour as we work with local authorities and members of the public in London, Oxford and other major UK cities to shape the future of mobility. Alongside our valued partners, we're making autonomous vehicle services an everyday reality, right here in the UK.'
Project Endeavour is part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, as part of the Government's £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Launched in September 2019, the project has brought together Oxbotica, urban innovators DG Cities and Immense, a leading transport simulation company. Ahead of the public trials, TRL, British Standards (BSI) and Oxfordshire County Council have joined the consortium.
The new partners are working on developing a new safety assurance assessment scheme against PAS 1881 standard for public autonomous trials. Matt Page, managing director UK and Ireland, assurance at BSI, said: 'We'll be applying our expertise in certification to research an assessment methodology for the safe trialling of connected and autonomous vehicles on public roads. This technology presents a huge opportunity for the automotive sector, and we're committed to working together with industry to help accelerate innovation whilst ensuring safety.'
Laura Peacock, Innovation Hub manager at Oxfordshire CC, said: 'Oxfordshire County Council's Innovation Hub has been at the forefront of autonomous mobility for the last four years. The progress that has been made in the Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) ecosystem is huge, moving from simulation, trials in isolated environments and now to the first live on-road public trials in Oxford.
'We are working with partners to create a systematic approach for other local authorities to engage and interact with CAV trials in their regions, which brings us much closer to CAV deployments becoming a reality to bring benefit to our communities and UK PLC.'
The project will run until Autumn 2021 with live tests in three major UK cities.
The trials will help develop engagement models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for autonomous vehicles.
Camilla Fowler, head of automation at TRL, said: 'These exciting trials, and what we learn about assuring safety and encouraging interoperability will open up new opportunities for many more research demonstrations across the UK, which are the forerunners to the full-scale public trials so eagerly awaited.'
Project Endeavour builds on the DRIVEN consortium, which demonstrated the capabilities of a fleet of self-driving vehicles in Oxfordshire's and London's challenging and complex urban environment.