Ford-Jaguar consortium to start testing driverless pods in UK

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 22, 2015

In late 2017, autonomous cars will start operating in Milton Keynes, near London, as support to its public transport systems. Currently, testing is being conducted by Ford and Jaguar Land Rover as well as by the UK government for this project. In an interview, project head Tim Armitage said that 40 self-driving transport “pods” will be placed by the UK Autodrive Consortium on the roads of Milton Keynes, around 60 miles (100km) north of London, for six months starting in late 2017.

A Ford spokeswoman said that the company is offering a prototype car with vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability. The goal of the British government is to make sure that it gets a share of the expanding market for autonomous transport. The UK government is partially funding this project.

With a 5-year period, this project is expected to cost as much as 120 million pounds ($186 million). UK aims to be the leader in self-driving vehicles, ahead of the U.S. and Germany. The government hopes to encourage investment, lessen accidents, and improve the quality of its air.

Armitage said that they have made huge strides with autonomous vehicles but there has to be new technology. This trial (comprising an investment of three years) is being supported by government grant that amounts to 10 million pounds.

The private sector has also backed this effort with the same amount. This project is running together with two other UK programs in Bristol, England, and the London borough of Greenwich.

Armitage explained that foreign companies prefer the UK because its road laws in the UK are more agreeable to testing self-driving cars on public roads than most countries. Government-aided Transport Systems Catapult will develop the autonomous pods that will be seen in Milton Keynes.

Scanning for people and things will be accomplished with the use of cameras, lasers, and radar. So far, three vehicles have been built, with one presently undergoing testing in the town.

Steve Yianni, managing director of Transport Systems Catapult, said that there is a “global race” right now to develop this technology and be the first to offer it to the market.

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