There are already many examples around the world of vehicles that have some element of ‘self-driving’ capability, including cars that are now on general sale with self-parking or adaptive cruise control functions. Several companies around the world are also developing vehicles that can operate in a highly automated state in certain relatively straightforward conditions – for example when moving in one-way traffic along a highway. The ultimate goal is to produce vehicles that can handle the complexity of full end-to-end journeys, including busy urban settings and remote rural roads.
UK Autodrive was one of three projects currently being co-funded by the UK government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, with the aim of trialling and demonstrating the current capabilities of connected and autonomous vehicle technology, and assessing the requirements for further development. It is difficult to compare the advances being made in different countries, due to the often confidential nature of the research being undertaken, but the UK is clearly benefitting from strong industry and government support.
In the government’s 2018 Industrial Strategy, it highlighted the Future of Mobility as a Grand Challenge, with the aim of the UK becoming a world leader in shaping the future of mobility. Huge government investment is being made in developing the CAV/CAT sector, which is a fundamental part of future mobility, particularly as the focus moves towards reducing carbon emissions, supporting an aging population, reducing congestion, improving safety, and improving the customers’ experience.
The UK regulatory environment is very favourable, with the government recently releasing its Future of Mobility Grand Challenge. It is committing to a ‘light touch/non-regulatory approach to the testing and development of these technologies’, and plans to facilitate nationwide road testing. This framework will make the UK very attractive to autonomous system developers, as they will not have to negotiate differing and restricted rules across other nation’s roads.