What vehicles were involved?
We trialled automated vehicle and connected vehicle technologies using two distinct types of vehicle:
The first were ‘regular’ passenger vehicles (M1 classification) provided by Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Company and Tata Motors European Technical Centre. These looked very much like the cars we are used to seeing on roads now, but featured increasingly advanced autonomous and connected vehicle communications systems. A total of seven M1 cars took part in the programme (three provided by Jaguar Land Rover and two each by Ford Motor Company and Tata Motors European Technical Centre).
The second type of vehicle were the low-speed electric-powered ‘pods’ provided by RDM Group. These were similar in appearance to the three pods trialled in Milton Keynes as part of the initial LUTZ Pathfinder project. By the end of the programme, a fleet of autonomous pods operated on pedestrianised sections of Milton Keynes.
What were the vehicles able to do? Were they fully driverless? Were they driving around with no one in them?
The M1 vehicles were trialling technologies that offered ever-increasing levels of automation and driver assistance with the aim of reaching fully autonomous operation in some controlled circumstances. Some of the cars in the road-based trials were used to demonstrate car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications systems, rather than autonomous systems.
The pavement-based pods were designed to operate completely autonomously. By the end of the programme the pods demonstrated a small-scale public transport system in Milton Keynes. Earlier stages of the programme were used to trial and demonstrate capabilities that were required to deliver this service.
In the three-year timescale of UK Autodrive, all project vehicles contained an occupant who was responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation.
What technology did the vehicles rely on?
The electric-powered pod vehicles operating in pedestrianised areas of Milton Keynes were equipped with a wide range of sensors, including stereo cameras, LIDAR (laser-scanners) and ultrasonic obstacle detectors – as well as the computers required to process the incoming information and steer the pods. The M1 vehicles also employed a range of sensor, communication and positioning technologies. GPS and other space-based satellite navigation systems are not currently accurate or reliable enough to be used as primary sources of navigation data for automated transport systems. Satellite navigation systems was only used for non-essential applications.