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Project Endeavour gets in gear to begin first public autonomous vehicle trials

Government-backed autonomous vehicle consortium adds new partners and begins field trials in three major UK cities

A key milestone is said to be been reached in the UK Government-backed Project Endeavour R&D programme, now beginning the first live trials of an initiative designed to accelerate and scale the adoption of autonomous vehicle services across the UK.

Launched in September 2019, the project has brought together autonomous software company Oxbotica, urban innovator DG Cities and Immense, a transport simulation company. Ahead of the public trials, which Project Endeavour says will bring the deployment of commercial autonomous vehicles in the UK one step closer, three new consortium partners have been added to Project Endeavour: the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the British Standards Institution (BSI) and Oxfordshire County Council.

Project Endeavour is part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. It’s part of the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund, supporting the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge. It builds on the Driven consortium, which demonstrated the capabilities of a fleet of self-driving vehicles in London and Oxfordshire’s challenging and complex urban environment.

The trials will begin this week on roads in Oxford, and will run until Autumn 2021 with live tests in three major UK cities. The field test will aim to demonstrate autonomous driving in a variety of urban and city environments, and develop engagement models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for the future launch of autonomous vehicle services.

The consortium, part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, is using a combination of advanced simulations and on-road demonstrations to help accelerate and scale the deployment and adoption of autonomous vehicles. The test will see a fleet of six Ford Mondeo vehicles, enabled by Oxbotica to be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, complete a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford’s main train station.

Trials will be run at all times of the day and night, allowing Oxbotica’s autonomous vehicles to experience a range of traffic scenarios from morning commutes to school runs, in a range of weather conditions.

The new partners will focus on the development of a new safety assurance assessment scheme against the PAS 1881 standard for public autonomous trials, helping to inspire trust and define a consistent approach to safety that will enable future deployments to happen efficiently without slowing down the rate of innovation.

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“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,” said Camilla Fowler, head of automation at TRL.

“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.”

Matt Page, managing director UK and Ireland, Assurance at BSI, added: “We’re delighted to be a part of this collaborative project, where 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,” he said.

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