The ORI works on all aspects of mobile autonomy. We use flagship projects to force the development and evaluation of emerging technology. One such standout project is the deployment and testing of a complete autonomy system on small “pods” for urban use.
Self-driving vehicles equipped with Oxford-developed autonomy software have been tested successfully in public for the first time in the UK. The demonstration in Milton Keynes was coordinated by the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and marked the conclusion of the LUTZ Pathfinder project, which has been running for the past 18 months.
The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, originated in Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment. Selenium is being commercialised and was integrated onto an electric vehicle by Oxford University spinout company Oxbotica.
The vehicle demonstration took place on pavements around Milton Keynes train station and business district. In the future, it is expected that vehicles like those demonstrated in Milton Keynes will be used for local transportation in urban areas.
Professor Paul Newman, BP Professor of Information Engineering at Oxford University and co-founder of Oxbotica, said:
‘It’s great to see our research ideas having a life of their own beyond the lab and being used in public, for the public. Our work with the TSC has given us the opportunity to accelerate the development of our system into the public domain and has given us a platform from which we can now take our expertise onto the world stage.’
The project team has been running a number of exercises in preparation for the demonstration, including virtual mapping of Milton Keynes, assessing public acceptance, conducting the necessary safety planning, and establishing the regulatory environment with the support of Milton Keynes Council.
Neil Fulton, Programme Director at the TSC, said:
‘This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts. Oxford University’s technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world, and the LUTZ Pathfinder project will now feed into a much wider programme of autonomous trials across the UK. Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain, and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey.’
Experience a ride in the LUTZ POD with this 360 video.
This flagship has its genesis in the LUTZ project which is a collaboration between RDM, Oxford and the Transport Systems Catapult. RDM are making the vehicle hardware, we are supplying the autonomy software and sensor systems and the Transport Systems Catapult are overseeing the project and coordinating trials with Milton Keynes Council.
Beyond demonstrating autonomous vehicles, the project will address the wider key challenge of how to increase mobility by demonstrating and analysing the potential for effective and cost-efficient movement of people in a city.
The LUTZ project will see Pods deployed in the streets of Milton Keynes in 2016 running the complete autonomy system we refer to as “Selenium.” Selenium draws on competencies from across our technology portfolio but some of the videos below give a sense of its deployment on Light Urban Vehicles.
Looking out beyond LUTZ, ORI, with the support of Oxbotica, is developing and supporting the use of Selenium to support a larger fleet of 40 pods as part of the UK Autodrive Consortium. Watch this space for news on that project when it starts in the new year.
The Mapping of Milton Keynes (or wherever)
A key stage in the deployment of the technology is training, producing what we call “scene priors”. These are simply detailed maps of the environment and they are adorned with all kinds of extra information like lighting changes and seasonal appearance changes. A few of those maps can be seen in these movies below;
The vehicles will travel at a safe speed for the environment, never exceeding 15 miles per hour. In general, they will move at a brisk walking pace.
Automated vehicle trials are taking place on several pedestrianised sections within a designated area of Central Milton Keynes. The focus for demonstrations is on the area near Milton Keynes Central train station, where passengers could begin their “last mile” journey in an automated vehicle in the future.