Research project to deploy autonomous vehicles in UK cities launched

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An autonomous mobility service research project has launched this month to help UK cities harness autonomous vehicle technologies and incorporate them into complex urban environments.

ServCity is being jointly funded by industry and the UK government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility fund, which is administered by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and delivered by Innovate UK.

Over 30 months, six partners – Nissan, Connected Places Catapult, TRL, Hitachi, SBD Automotive and the University of Nottingham – will work together to develop solutions that tackle barriers to deploying autonomous vehicles in UK cities.

UK business and industry minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “If society is to enjoy the benefits of self-driving vehicles, we need to ensure the technology can safely master a complex and lively modern city, with all its obstacles.

“This project, backed by government funding, will not only help make autonomous vehicles more user friendly, but also give users confidence that they can respond quickly and safely and to all types of challenges they face on the roads.”

ServCity leverages the experience and expertise acquired though the HumanDrive project, which evaluated autonomous driving on countryside and motorway lanes, overcoming challenges such as roundabouts and high-speed country lanes with no marking, white lines, or kerbs

That project, which used a Nissan Leaf, was completed in February with Grand Drive, reportedly the UK’s longest and most complex autonomous drive, from Cranfield to Sunderland. According to the ServCity partners, data and learning gathered during HumanDrive will help in the completion of the new venture.

Through a combination of test simulation, end-user experience research and real-world trials, ServCity aims to help cities exploit the potential of future mobility solutions and accelerate their deployment. It will concentrate on three key areas – technology, people and scalability – to ensure an intuitive, inclusive and engaging user experience.

Nissan will provide its battery-electric Leaf for the project, with initial tests conducted at TRL’s Smart Mobility Living Lab in London prior to public road testing in the UK capital city. Hitachi has been tasked with developing technology for predicting and safely responding to moving objects such as pedestrians, cyclists and cars, as well as delivering accurate and robust localisation solutions.

The University of Nottingham’s Human Factors Research Group will provide expertise in conducting and analysing user studies that evaluate human-computer interactions to generate theories, models and methods behind the user experience of vehicle occupants. Through this it aims to ensure that the design and development of the autonomous vehicle service is user-centred and meets consumer needs.

Furthermore, SBD Automotive, a global consultancy firm specialising in automotive technologies, will use its experience working with car makers to help define and test different approaches to delivering what it described as “a seamless automated driving experience”.

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