Smart Transport

Britain’s largest trial of autonomous and connected vehicles


The UK Government-supported Autodrive Project trialled a range of autonomous and connected vehicles – supplied by Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors and autonomous pod specialist Aurrigo – over a three-year period starting in 2015.

It evaluated seven connected vehicle technologies, some of which could be rolled out almost immediately, while others – as the project’s final report concludes – remain works in progress.

Led by Arup with support from more than a dozen public and private sector partners, the project took place on the public roads (and pavements) of Coventry and Milton Keynes.

In the near to mid-term – thanks in part to new rules approved by the European Commission this year – connected technology is likely to have a more immediate impact on UK drivers than wholly autonomous vehicles.

The Autodrive Project tested the following technologies: 

Electronic emergency brake light: Provides a warning when a vehicle ahead suddenly brakes – especially useful when driver is unable to see the lights of the vehicle in front due to weather conditions, road layout or other vehicles in between.

Conclusion: has “strong potential” to reduce road accidents, although more refinement is needed.

Green light optimal speed advisory: Sends traffic light information to allow the connected car to calculate optimal speed for approaching the lights to improve traffic flow and reduce emissions.

Conclusion: needs more work on the roadside infrastructure.

Emergency vehicle warning: Sends a signal directly from an emergency vehicle to nearby connected cars advising of its approach and direction.

Conclusion: effective and could be introduced in the near future.

Intersection movement assist: Warns the driver when it is unsafe to enter an intersection, due to a high probability of collision with other vehicles.

Conclusion: worked within the parameters of the trial (which focused on T-junctions), but real-world is more complex. 

Intersection priority management: Assigns priority when two or more connected vehicles come to an intersection without priority signs or traffic lights.

Conclusion: the most futuristic as it relies on 100% of cars being connected. 

In-vehicle signage: Sends information about road conditions, congestion or incidents direct to the in-car display, rather than relying on expensive gantry systems.

Conclusion: more work required to standardise the signals sent to drivers.

Collaborative parking: Provides real-time information about free parking spaces either in the vicinity or close to the driver’s final destination.

Conclusion: could be introduced in the near future.

Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors’ self-driving vehicles started the trial process on test tracks and graduated to a demonstration of driving in Coventry’s busy mixed-use city centre.

By the end of the project, the manufacturers had made major progress in terms of autonomous vehicle (AV) capability, but the trial also highlighted a number of challenges in the path of AV development.

These include: synchronising the processing speeds between different elements of the AV ecosystem so they all operate within the same timeframe, pedestrian avoidance, dealing with potholes and relying solely on GPS to keep vehicles in the correct lane.

The trial’s pavement-based Aurrigo self-driving pods are the type of last-mile technology which could solve the challenge of connecting various transport modes for both passengers and parcels for a commercial rate as low as £3 per journey.

The project report says this new class of vehicle blurs the lines between public and private transport. 

Read Mark Sutcliffe's article on smart mobility getting street-wise from Smart Transport Journal


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