The first live autonomous vehicle trials are beginning this week on the roads of Oxford.
Project Endeavour, which is a government-backed research and development project, is running until Autumn 2021 with live tests in three major UK cities.
The consortium of companies will also use advanced simulations to help accelerate autonomous vehicle technology.
For the live trials, six Ford Mondeos have been modified by UK-based autonomous vehicle software firm Oxbotica to provide Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities. This means the cars can drive themselves, but have a wheel and pedals for a driver to take over. This is one short of fully autonomous driving, in which there is no conventional cockpit and no way for a human to take over.
The vehicles will travel Oxford Parkway station to the city’s main train station on a nine-mile round trip. The routes will be driven at all times of day and night to test the cars in different conditions and traffic levels.
The project was launched in September 2019 and has seen three new organisations join ahead of the live trials. These are the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the British Standards Institute and Oxfordshire County Councils.
Camilla Fowler, head of automation at TRL, said: “Trials of Level 4 vehicles are an important milestone, keeping the UK at the head of the field in bringing the benefits of this technology into mainstream use.
“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.”
Laura Peacock, Innovation Hub manager at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “It is exciting to be part of Project Endeavour. 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.”