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 is 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. As well as launching the “Introducing driverless cars to UK roads” competition, the government announced in 2015 that it would be investing £100m (with industry providing another £100m) into automated vehicle technology and the systems required to implement and adopt this technology. The Department for Transport also gave the legal green light for self-driving vehicle trials in February 2015, when it confirmed that no new legislation was required for these to go ahead.