AV London Trial Takes On The ‘Burbs

A consortium running autonomous vehicle trials in London have extended the pilot into the most challenging streets yet – the suburbs.

As a born-and-bred city resident, I can attest to the challenge facing the StreetWise consortium as its vehicles take on the simply appalling driving behavior of human drivers they will encounter away from the city center. However, the consortium, including partners like hardware developer FiveAI, insurer Direct Line and safety standards body the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), claim their trial is the most technologically advanced attempted so far in the UK.

Its latest pilot now takes in the gargantuan task of coping with the boy-racers, sight-impaired elderly shoppers and congestion enraged commuters that populate the streets of the London boroughs of Croydon and Bromley.

The project hopes to evaluate the technology, safety validation methods, insurance and service models required to deliver a viable, shared self-driving service albeit along a fixed route to begin with.

FiveAI’s software stack for the trial was developed and trained using a data set from complex UK roads and cities, including London where trained safety drivers sit behind the wheel at all times. TRL is undertaking all research and analysis, assessing researching participants’ willingness to use and pay for a shared self-driving service as well as measuring their attitudes towards safety and trust. It is also establishing the safety case for the wider StreetWise project and generating an independent database of scenarios for simulation testing. At the same time Direct Line is providing research participants for the trials as it works towards understanding the conditions needed to insure software rather than human motorists.

Stan Boland, co-founder and CEO of FiveAI, said: “Shared, self-driving vehicle services promise a better way for people to get around, we’ll be working with forward-thinking partners to make these services a reality in European urban environments. The lessons learned through StreetWise provide an important step towards that goal.”

David Hynd, chief scientist at TRL said: “This is a significant milestone not only for the StreetWise consortium but for the entire CAV sector in the UK and beyond. Automated vehicles represent the future of transport and have the potential to deliver tangible, wide-reaching benefits in relation to reduced congestion, faster and cheaper commutes, fewer collisions and cleaner air. We’re very excited about entering this phase of the project to create credible and real-world insights on the willingness to use and attitudes towards a shared, automated service, which will go a long way to helping us understand how these services can meet the needs of end-users.”

Neil Ingram, head of motor product at Direct Line Group said: “As technological advances continue at pace and self-driving cars become a reality, insurers need to understand how that changes risk; cars will increasingly be controlled by software rather than humans. Working closely with our StreetWise partners, including FiveAI and TRL, provides DLG with unique insight that will help to develop innovative insurance solutions for new tech enabled mobility services.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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