Driverless cars to be trialled on British roads in 2019

Published: 24 April 2017

► DRIVEN consortium plans public road tests
► To run between London and Oxford in 2019
► Test vehicles will have a human on board

A fleet of fully autonomous vehicles is planned to complete test runs in urban areas and on motorways in 2019. A consortium of British technology companies, operating under the name DRIVEN, plan for six intercommunicating vehicles to complete an end-to-end journey between London and Oxford, as well as shorter test runs on motorways and public roads.  

The programme is likely to involve six intercommunicating vehicles with ‘Level 4 autonomy’ – i.e. with the ability to monitor the surrounding road conditions for an entire trip, and perform ‘safety-critical functions’ (y’know, not crashing into stuff, etc) and could function without a human being on board, although thankfully there’ll be someone on board during the trials to take over in the event of an emergency.

‘No connected and autonomous vehicle trial of this level of complexity and integration as ever been attempted anywhere in the world’, says Oxbotica, an artificial intelligence company that’s a lead member of the consortium.

What does the DRIVEN consortium’s test programme aim to achieve?

The 30-month project, underway from April 2017, aims to iron out many of the logistical kinks which currently lie in the path of robot cars. For example, how connected cars will communicate with each other and share data; how insurance companies could or should treat autonomous vehicles; how to handle the inevitable cybersecurity risks and data protection issues associated with connected cars.

The programme is funded partially by an £8.6m grant from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Professor Paul Newman, Head of the Oxford Robotics Institute and a lead member of the consortium says the project ‘brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other. We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles – and what’s interesting to us at the Oxford Robotics Institute is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.’

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ