Driverless vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce congestion, travel time and accidents, among others. The technology required to create a safe integration of vehicle and environment is still in its infancy, yet a number of different organisations are actively developing solutions. To support communication between the offerings of various developers, Arup-led consortium the UK Autodrive was formed in 2014. The team will, over the coming two years, test intra-brand vehicle connectivity solutions.
Driverless cars and trucks have the potential to significantly reduce congestion, speed up transit, create more efficient supply chains and open up vast tracts of inner city space (carparks) for new possibilities. Driverless car technologies, once perfect, are also likely to reduce accidents while saving consumers significantly on monthly insurance premiums.
The technology is currently in development, with a number of players – including incumbent automotive OEMs, new players and tech giants – working on developing the technologies to maturity.
As there are a number of different players, each developing their own solutions, it is likely that the roads will contain a variety of makes and models if the technology comes to fruition. One key aspect of the technology is that cars will ‘talk to each other’ about road conditions, from hazards and traffic light information to current location, velocity and direction. Communication between vehicles will, however, require that a standard is developed that allows for seamless communication.
The UK Government, in a bid to establish the UK as a global hub for the development of autonomous vehicle technologies, launched a £10m ‘Introducing Driverless Cars’ competition in 2014; the same year the completion was won by an Arup-led consortium, the UK Autodrive team.
The consortium, which involves local authorities, leading technology and automotive businesses and academic institutions, recently held the first collaborative trials of communication between autonomous vehicles. The vehicles, from diverse manufacturers of autonomous vehicles, including Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors European Technical Centre, demonstrated their ability to communicate a range of information at Horbia Mira’s Midlands test track.
The vehicles communicated warnings to drivers about other connected cars ahead breaking heavily, as well as information about traffic lights advising drivers of the optimum speed to reduce the likelihood of meeting a red light which improves traffic flow and reduces emissions.