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Consortium makes big shift in autonomous vehicle research in the UK

New SHIFT Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Report identifies the potential impact of deploying autonomous vehicle services across the UK with advanced traffic modelling helping to predict potential impact of autonomy on congestion, emissions, public transport and ride-sharing services

A report identifying the potential impact of autonomous vehicle services on major UK cities, creating for the first time safety guidelines and vehicle build orders, has been published by Oxbotica, Imperial College London and Transport for London (TfL).

The collaborative project, called Shift, is supported in part by a £1.58m grant awarded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered through Innovate UK. It aims to develop models and guidelines that will facilitate the appropriate deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) safely and efficiently in urban environments, defining the key considerations and impacts.

In making their formulations, the project partners used transport analysis tools to start to model the impact of autonomous vehicles on city transport, congestion and the mode-shift away from vehicle ownership.

The findings detailed in The autonomous vehicle deployment report include the creation of advanced traffic modelling to predict the demand and impact of autonomy on congestion, emissions, public transport and ride-sharing services. As part of the project, Oxbotica has developed what it calls first-of-its-kind driver safety guidelines, an AV build order and a third-party data infrastructure system to further help operators take proof-of-concept autonomous demonstrations to larger-scale service deployments in the UK.

Outcomes from the Shift report are being used as part of Project Endeavour, which is designed to accelerate and scale the adoption of AV services across the UK through advanced simulations alongside trials on public roads in three major cities.

The first live trials of the initiative began in October 2020 with the aim of accelerating and scaling the adoption of autonomous vehicle services across the UK. The build order and data infrastructure developed through Shift has been deployed by Oxbotica on a fleet of six vehicles which began autonomously completing a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford’s main train station in 2020.

“Autonomy, whether we’re talking purely in terms of transportation or any of its various other use cases, is set to transform the world we live in,” said Graeme Smith, senior vice-president of external affairs at Oxbotica, outlining the scope of the work and its intended aims.

“The knowledge gap has previously been how autonomous vehicles impact the area where they are deployed, but with Shift we have been able to begin to understand the nuts and bolts of real-world deployment. The outputs of Shift will enable any third party – from OEMs through to owners and operators – to deploy autonomous services in an urban environment in a way that suits their business model. This is the key to unlocking the true potential of autonomy.”

The autonomous vehicle deployment report is seeing use as the basis for fleet health monitoring to improve safety. The creation of a dashboard of metrics is necessary to allow fleet operators to keep vehicles in top condition by tracking trends to predict any issues before they develop into a safety issue. Similarly, a data infrastructure has been produced as part of Shift to standardise Oxbotica’s collecting, recording and downloading of vehicle logs.

The project also attempts to provide the basis for building and commissioning autonomous vehicles efficiently and safely. A comprehensive and repeatable build order has been produced as part of the Shift project, detailing the hardware and engineering required to make a vehicle AV-ready in a way that maximises trust in the technology.

“The deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies has the potential to revolutionise mobility in cities around the world,” said Panagiotis Angeloudis, reader in transport systems and logistics at Imperial College London. “Through the Shift project, we had an opportunity to study their potential impacts on the rest of the transport network in an unprecedented level of detail. Through the tools that were developed, stakeholders can now plan better for the deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies and be better prepared for the future.”

Michael Hurwitz, director of innovation at Transport for London, believes autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to support the UK’s economic recovery and significantly change how people travel.

“That’s why the Mayor’s Transport Strategy commits us to engaging with innovative companies and academics, both now and in the future, at the earliest available opportunity,” he said. “Being part of modelling projects like Shift helps ensure we better understand how this technology, and the frameworks and environment that surround it, need to develop and adapt going forwards. This is key to ensuring that any application in the future, be it in London or elsewhere in the UK, is safe, inclusive and works for all.” 

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