UK’s ambition to become driverless car leader is given green light



A consortium of leading UK businesses has secured funding from Innovate UK to examine the data requirements needed to support autonomous navigation. The ground breaking ‘Atlas’ initiative will study data critical to the efficient operation of autonomous vehicles and how it can be enhanced.  Testing the feasibility of maintaining, processing and distributing this data is a core element of the project. If Atlas is successful, we could see a more rapid take-up of connected and autonomous vehicles, consolidating the UK’s position as a global leader in driverless car technologies and innovation.

The Consortium is made up of Ordnance Survey, Satellite Applications Catapult, Transport Research Laboratory, Sony Europe Ltd, two leading UK specialist SME’s in autonomous and navigation systems:  GOBOTIX and OxTS, and the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It is one of a number of projects, announced by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid on 1 February, that will benefit from £20 million of government investment to research and develop communication between vehicles and the roadside infrastructure.  The Atlas project will commence 1 May 2016.

Following the announcement, Jeremy Morley,  Ordnance Survey’s Chief Geospatial Scientist, stressed the strength of the consortium and the potential benefits from the Atlas project: “Autonomous vehicles will need to find their way reliably and safely through a vast network of streets while interacting with driven and other autonomous vehicles. Imagine sections of road – other than motorway – equipped with beacons using the potential of 5G technology and geospatial accuracy to sense ‘unexpected objects’ (a.k.a ‘children and animals’), that may unwittingly stray into the path of an oncoming autonomous vehicle. Engines in autonomous cars that pick up on road surface conditions perhaps, to adjust a car’s tyre pressures. We’re already seeing developments along these lines as collaborations between other mapping organisations and a range of car manufacturers – BMW, AUDI, et al.

Morley continues: “Then, what about catalytic converters that issue reports on fuel efficiency? Based on data coming from sensors embedded in the road’s surface, these could then update an employee’s benefits in kind – in real-time. Dynamic cats-eyes that open and close as traffic passes maybe… smartphones equipped with apps to interpret gantry signals, automatically updating calendars and meeting requests depending on traffic flow”

Ben Davis, Technical Director of Gobotix, said: “We have been working for some time alongside OxTS to use our joint expertise in robotics, navigation and computer vision in order to improve and build upon vehicle autonomy in a range of environments. This exciting opportunity enables us, through close collaboration with industry-leading companies, to explore further some the ideas of our brightest and best minds”

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Atlas. As part of the Government’s investment in connected and autonomous vehicles, we’re hugely encouraged by the value placed on ensuring robust and resilient satellite data – a fundamental part of a successful data-driven programme. This will provide end-users with the assurance and confidence they require that data access, discovery and retrieval is managed securely by all associated parties.”

Denise Hyland – Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “The Royal Borough of Greenwich is delighted to be working with Ordnance Survey and the other consortium members on this important and exciting project. Connected and autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform mobility and land use patterns in our cities, and Greenwich is committed to understanding how cities need to respond to support their deployment, and capture the opportunities they can bring. This project, supported by Innovate UK, complements the work being undertaken by the Royal Borough of Greenwich on smart city innovation and smart mobility – work that we believe will be significant for all cities in the future.”

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