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Transport Research Lab to run £13m autonomous vehicle trials in London

A consortium led by the Transport Research Lab has been awarded government funding to run connected and autonomous vehicle tests in the capital

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), alongside a consortium of partners, has been awarded a £13.4m tranche of the government’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) testbed funding to trial CAV technology on the streets of Greenwich, south London, and at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

The project will pool the resources DG Cities, Cisco, Costain, Cubic, Loughborough University, Transport for London (TfL) and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LDDC), with delivery services partners including Millbrook Proving Ground and the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) to create a Smart Mobility Living Lab at the two designated sites.

The lab is designed to provide a real-world urban testbed in a public environment to demonstrate and test CAV technology and associated services. It will operate as an open innovation environment, bringing together automakers, transport tech specialists, government bodies and academics to develop both technical and business solutions.

“Users of the SMLL will be able to collaboratively or independently test their ideas, technology and services in a real-world environment,” said TRL engineering and technology director Paul Zanelli.

“This exciting project will see us working closely with industry to develop the evidence case for bringing new products and services to market, and with local and national governments to address the challenges and opportunities of future mobility. This will ensure we gain the benefits and minimise the pain of change.

“At the heart of the Living Lab will be continuous engagement with the public, to help facilitate a greater understanding of the implications of autonomous technology and enable them to have their say during this huge transition in urban mobility.”

TRL already has a substantial innovation programme up and running to explore automated and self-driving vehicles and the infrastructure that will be needed to support them, as well as low-carbon technology and electrification. Among other things, it is involved with the recently announced trial of lorry platooning.

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Cisco UK and Ireland CEO Scot Gardner said: “Connected and autonomous vehicles will be the future, but at the moment they are a future that still requires exploration. The partners in this project have the right experience to truly understand what is needed in the real world. As technology and delivery lead, we are delighted to be part of what we believe will help establish the UK as a global innovator in this space.”

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark added: “Combining ambitious new technologies and innovative business models to address social and economic challenges lies at the heart of the government’s modern industrial strategy.

“Accelerating connected and autonomous vehicle technology development is central to achieving this ambition and will help to ensure the UK is one of the world’s go-to locations to develop this sector.”

Established testing ground

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has a growing number of CAV development projects taking place within its boundaries, and has moved to position itself as a leading proponent of smart city technology in the UK.

Earlier this year, online supermarket chain Ocado conducted a two-week trial of self-driving delivery vans at Royal Arsenal in the borough, and in 2016, robots took to Greenwich’s streets to test a last-mile autonomous delivery system developed by Estonian startup Starship. The council also runs an in-house digital development centre, Digital Greenwich, which is working with Surrey University’s 5GIC.

Denise Hyland, leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “This important initiative will further consolidate Greenwich, London and the UK’s pre-eminence in the development and application of connected and autonomous vehicle technology.

“It builds on our success in establishing Greenwich as a leader in smart city innovation and our work to identify the opportunities that technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles can bring, how cities will need to adapt, and our determination to put city authorities at the heart of the innovation debate.”

TfL director of transport innovation Michael Hurwitz added: “It is important that we support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London. Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to significantly change travel – that’s why we are working closely on this project to ensure the development of these types of vehicles is safe, environmentally friendly and benefits the city, complementing our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”

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