DRIVEN is an ambitious project which will see a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles being deployed in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford.
The Department of Engineering Science and the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI) is part of the DRIVEN consortium of companies which will help to cement the UK’s reputation as a world leader in the development of autonomous vehicles.
Benefitting from a grant of £8.6 million awarded by Innovate UK, the project will see autonomous vehicles operating in and between Oxford and London. The consortium will be led by Oxbotica, the award-winning Artificial Intelligence company set up by ORI’s Professors Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner.
DRIVEN’s vehicles will be operating at Level 4 autonomy – meaning they have the capability of performing all safety-critical driving functions and monitoring roadway conditions for an entire trip, with zero-passenger occupancy. No connected and autonomous vehicle trial at this level of complexity and integration has ever been attempted anywhere in the world.
The 30-month project, commencing in April 2017, will shake up both the transportation and insurance industries by seeking to remove fundamental barriers to real-world commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles. Key challenges the consortium will address include: communication and data sharing between connected vehicles; Connected and Autonomous Vehicles insurance modelling; risk profiling; and the new cybersecurity challenges that this amount of data sharing will bring.
A major part of the consortium’s work will include the use of a fleet of six inter-communicating vehicles equipped with Selenium, Oxbotica’s cutting-edge vehicle manufacturer (OEM) agnostic software. As a platform, Selenium provides any vehicle it is applied to with an awareness of where it is, what surrounds it and – with that knowledge in hand – how it should move to complete a task.
A key challenge will be how to insure autonomous fleets of vehicles. The consortium plans to develop a system that automatically takes into account data from the vehicle and external sources that surround it, for example, traffic control systems. The project will radically transform how insurance and autonomous vehicles will work together in connected cities.
The project will also address data protection and cyber-security concerns raised by international policymakers and law enforcement agencies around the world by defining common security and privacy policies related to connected and autonomous vehicles.
Besides ORI and Oxbotica, other partners involved in the UK project include re/insurer XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.
Professor Paul Newman, Head of the Oxford Robotics Institute based at the University of Oxford, and one of Oxbotica’s founders, said: “DRIVEN is the first of its kind and 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.”
Commenting on DRIVEN’s launch, Dr Graeme Smith, Chief Executive of Oxbotica, said: “Today’s news is truly ground-breaking. No company, group or consortium of autonomy experts has ever attempted what DRIVEN is planning over the next 30 months. We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project.”