£11.15m grant secured for driverless taxis

Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Linda Bestwick

The University of Nottingham is part of a major new government-backed initiative to trial self-driving taxis around parts of London.

Led by Jaguar Land Rover, the ServCity pilot has won £11.15m from Innovate UK towards its £19.8m project to develop a bookable taxi service in the capital using six autonomous Land Rover Discovery vehicles.

The consortium, also comprising Addison Lee, the Transport Systems Catapult and the Transport Research Laboratory, will test and further develop existing JLR sensing and autonomy systems in Coventry and the Midlands before piloting a “premium mobility service across four Greater London boroughs.”

The trials will assess technical performance and include social behavioural research, led by the Human Factors Research Group at the University, to explore how driverless technology can seamlessly integrate into society, with the findings applied to the development for future autonomous service models.

Professor Gary Burnett, Chair in Transport Human Factors, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, said: “ServCity is an ideal opportunity for us to conduct world-leading research to understand the complex factors that will contribute to the public’s acceptance of connected and automated vehicles.

“We are particularly excited to be working closely with major industrial players in this field to ensure that the knowledge we acquire can have a direct impact on their design processes going forward and shape the experience for users of future autonomous mobility services.”

The project will also develop analytical models to understand and demonstrate the wider positive impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles on cities – from reduced air pollution to easing congestion.

The project is one of three new public trials announced late this week by Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark as part of efforts to ensure the UK is a world-leader in the development and testing of self-driving technologies.

The projects were selected following a competitive process and will share a £25m government grant through the fourth round of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Each pilot supports the government’s ambition to have self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021 through the modern Industrial Strategy and Future of Mobility Grand Challenge.

Future of Mobility Minister, Jesse Norman, said the UK market for autonomous vehicles was forecast to be worth up to £52bn by 2035. “This pioneering technology will bring significant benefits to people right across the country, improving mobility and safety, and driving growth across the UK,” he said.

“Autonomous vehicles and their technology will not only revolutionise how we travel, it will open up and improve transport services for those who struggle to access both private and public transport,” he said.

“The UK is building on its automotive heritage and strengths to develop the new vehicles and technologies and from 2021 the public will get to experience the future for themselves.”

Some £250 million, match-funded by industry, is being invested by the government, propelling self-driving technology in the UK.