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Driverless car goes public in the UK

The project team ran a number of exercises in preparation for the demonstration, including virtual mapping of the city

Driverless car became the star in Milton Keynes. Photo courtesy Fabio De Paola/PA
Driverless car became the star in Milton Keynes. Photo courtesy Fabio De Paola/PA

The driverless car uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment

An automated vehicle test and integration facility will enable other UK universities and SMEs to work with Catapult

The first trials of a self-driving car in a public space in the UK have taken place in Milton Keynes. The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), a technology and innovation centre for intelligent mobility, successfully tested its self-driving vehicles which marked the conclusion of the 18-month long LUTZ Pathfinder Project.


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.


The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, was developed by Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute and integrated by Oxford University spin-out company Oxbotica on to an electric vehicle. Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment.


The project team has been running a number of exercises in preparation for the demonstration as part of the LUTZ Pathfinder project, 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.


Following the trial, the TSC’s Automated Transport Systems team will continue to research the challenges and promote the benefits of increased automation in transport.


“Through the LUTZ Pathfinder project we have started to create a world leading urban test bed for connected and automated vehicles,” said Neil Fulton, programme director at the TSC. “We can now capitalise on the unique position of having the environment and the development platform to conduct further research and trials.


“To that end we have started work building an automated vehicle test and integration facility, which will enable other UK universities and SMEs to work with the Catapult on new self-driving technology.”


Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of technology company Oxbotica, which focuses on mobile robotics and autonomous systems for use across a broad range of industries, described the trial as a “a landmark step” to bringing self-driving vehicles to the streets of the UK and the world.


“Our unique Selenium software gives vehicles the next generation level of intelligence to safely operate in pedestrianised urban environments,” he said. “Our leading team of UK-based scientists, mathematicians and engineers have worked incredibly hard to develop this ground-breaking technology, which is bringing self-driving vehicles yet another a step closer to deployment across the world.”


The Transport Systems Catapult aims to harness emerging technologies to improve the movement of people and goods around the world. It helps to sell UK capability on the global stage, while also promoting the UK as a test bed for the transportation industry.


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