Self-driving cars were trialled in UK public space for the first time

The UK has had its first public trial of self driving vehicles last week, with the Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes demoing a UK-developed autonomous driving system.

This marked the end of the LUTZ Pathfinder Project, which has been developing the technology for the past 18 months.

As part of this project, the team have been running exercises to prep for the demo - including virtual mapping of Milton Keynes, assessing public acceptance, conducting safety planning and establishing the regulatory environment with the support of Milton Keynes Council. 

Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey

The autonomy software running the vehicle, Selenium, was developed at Oxford University and integrated by Oxbotica into an electric car. Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment.

While the demo was taking place in public, it wasn't on the roads. Instead, it used pavements around Milton Keynes' train station and business area.

'Wider programme of autonomous trials'

After this trial, the TSC’s Automated Transport Systems team will continue to research the challenges and promote the benefits of increased automation in transport. 

The trial was a "major milestone", according to Neil Fulton, programme director at the TSC

"Oxford University’s technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world and the LUTZ Pathfinder project will now feed into a much wider programme of autonomous trials across the UK.

"Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey," he said. 

Fulton added that the LUTZ Pathfinder project has laid the foundations for a "world-leading, urban testbed for connected and automated vehicles". 

As such, it has started work on building an automated vehicle test and integration facility to allow other UK universities and small businesses to work with teh Catapult on self-driving technology.


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