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Government invests £20 million in driverless cars

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A consortium has secured government funding of £20 million to position the UK as a world leader in connected and autonomous vehicles



A consortium has secured government funding of £20 million to position the UK as a world leader in connected and autonomous vehicles.

The consortium of leading UK businesses, led by Ordnance Survey, has secured funding from Innovate UK to examine the data requirements needed to support autonomous navigation.

The ‘Atlas’ initiative will study data critical to the efficient operation of autonomous vehicles and how it can be enhanced. Testing the feasibility of maintaining, processing and distributing this data is a core element of the project. If Atlas is successful, we could see a more rapid take-up of connected and autonomous vehicles, consolidating the UK’s position as a global leader in driverless car technologies and innovation. 

The Consortium is made up of Ordnance Survey, Satellite Applications Catapult, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Sony Europe Ltd, two leading UK specialist SME’s in autonomous and navigation systems: GOBOTIX and OxTS, and the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It is one of a number of projects, announced by secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid on 1 February, that will benefit from £20 million of government investment to research and develop communication between vehicles and the roadside infrastructure. The Atlas project will commence 1 May 2016.

Following the announcement, Jeremy Morley, Ordnance Survey’s chief geospatial scientist, said: “Autonomous vehicles will need to find their way reliably and safely through a vast network of streets while interacting with driven and other autonomous vehicles. Imagine sections of road – other than motorway – equipped with beacons using the potential of 5G technology and geospatial accuracy to sense ‘unexpected objects’ (a.k.a ‘children and animals’), that may unwittingly stray into the path of an oncoming autonomous vehicle. Engines in autonomous cars that pick up on road surface conditions perhaps, to adjust a car’s tyre pressures. We’re already seeing developments along these lines as collaborations between other mapping organisations and a range of car manufacturers – BMW, AUDI, et al.”

Rob Wallis, chief executive at TRL said; “Atlas is the latest in a string of innovative projects to be making use of TRL’s UK Smart Mobility Lab at Greenwich. It is an important project for autonomous vehicle development because the success of this work will not only enable safe navigation of these vehicles, but help to transform our transport system and ultimately save lives. If we can understand how to safely and securely transfer data between vehicles, then we really can put the UK at the forefront of connected and automated mobility.”

Stuart Martin, chief executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “We're delighted to be supporting Atlas. As part of the Government's investment in connected and autonomous vehicles, we're hugely encouraged by the value placed on ensuring robust and resilient satellite data – a fundamental part of a successful data-driven programme. This will provide end-users with the assurance and confidence they require that data access, discovery and retrieval is managed securely by all associated parties.”

The testing of driverless cars on public roads was given the green light in 2015, and transport minister Claire Perry said: “Driverless cars are the future. I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.

“These are still early days but today is an important step.The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”

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