Driverless vehicle testing on public roads hailed as landmark moment

Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover has been pushing ahead with driverless car testing to ensure it is at the forefront of developing the new technology.

The Coventry-based manufacturer has been taking part in the UK’s largest trial to date of connected and autonomous vehicle technology on public roads. With the help of Arup-led consortium, UK Autodrive, trials are exploring the benefits of having cars that can “talk” to each other and their surroundings – with connected traffic lights, emergency vehicle warnings and emergency braking alerts.

The vehicles rely on sensors to detect traffic, pedestrians and signals but have a human on board to react to emergencies. The trials are testing a number of features and most importantly seeking to investigate how self-driving vehicles interact with other road users and how to replicate human behaviour while driving. 

Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director, said: “The fundamental purpose of UK Autodrive is to get connected and autonomous vehicle technology out onto UK roads, so the start of trialling on the streets of Coventry is clearly a major landmark both for the project and for the UK as a whole. Our previous private test track trials showed that the technology works but it is only on real roads that we will start to see the scale of the benefits that it can bring.”

The testing in Coventry couldn’t be more timely as Philip Hammond revealed a £500m injection into electric and driverless cars on Wednesday as he delivered his budget. The chancellor has spoken about the government’s desire to have "fully driverless cars" without a safety attendant on board in use by 2021. Further trials are scheduled to take place in Coventry and Milton Keynes early next year followed by a final series of open road demonstration events in both cities during the second half of 2018.

Jim O’Boyle, Coventry’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration said, “I’m really pleased that the UK’s first collaborative on-road trialling of autonomous and connected vehicles is taking place in Coventry – the birthplace of the motor car. This new technology is moving rapidly and this is an important step and one we are all very excited about. Autonomous and connected cars will be a reality in the near future and I am confident they will help to boost safety, reduce congestion and improve air quality.”

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