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Transport Systems Catapult conducts first public autonomous driving trials


Autonomous driving system developed by Oxford University is tested in Milton Keynes

The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) in Milton Keynes has tested its self-driving vehicles in public for the first time, marking the conclusion of the LUTZ Pathfinder Project that has been developing the technology for the past 18 months.

The autonomous driving system software, called Selenium, was developed by Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute and integrated by Oxford University spinout company Oxbotica on to an electric vehicle. Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment.

The demonstration took place on pavements around Milton Keynes train station and business district. It is expected that similar vehicles will be used for local transportation in urban areas in the future.

Neil Fulton, programme director at the TSC, said: “This public demonstration represents a milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts. Oxford University’s technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world and the LUTZ Pathfinder project will now feed into a much wider programme of autonomous trials across the UK. Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey.

“We can now capitalise on the unique position of having the environment and the development platform to conduct further research and trials. To that end we have started work building an automated vehicle test and integration facility, which will enable other UK universities and SMEs to work with the Catapult on new self-driving technology.”

The project team conducted a number of exercises in preparation for the demonstration, including virtual mapping of Milton Keynes, assessing public acceptance, conducting the necessary safety planning and establishing the regulatory environment with the support of Milton Keynes Council. 

Following the trial, the TSC’s Automated Transport Systems team will continue to research the challenges and promote the benefits of increased automation in transport. 

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