The future is just around the corner. The DRIVEN project has announced the first three self-driving cars that it will be using to trial this innovative technology over the next two years on UK roads. The cars will be driven on public roads around Oxford initially. They they will make trips from Oxford to London. DRIVEN is hoping that the cars will have made several journeys between Oxford and London by 2019.

The government has backed the project with £8.9 million of funding. The trials also have industry support, and will eventually involve six self-driving cars taking to the roads.

Self-driving models revealed

The cars will have “Level 4 autonomy.” This means that they will travel without a driver for the majority of the time and can work without human input. The first three cars to be revealed are a white and blue 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium hybrid, a 2017 Ford Mondeo hybrid, and a Range Rover Evoque.

Each car will be decorated with the DRIVEN livery. They will be clearly branded to make other drivers and pedestrians aware of their presence. This is important, as many people have said that they have a lack of trust in self-driving cars. Making them eye-catching and obvious will hopefully encourage people to accept that they are on the roads.

(Credit – Oxbotica)

Making the self-driving cars stand out will also ensure that drivers and pedestrians are not shocked when they see one driving by, or stopped at lights or a junction, without a driver behind the wheel. In fact, people who live in the areas where the cars are being tested are already becoming familiar with the way that they look.

How do self-driving cars work?

The cars use Oxbotica’s software, Selenium, alongside a number of LIDAR sensors, computers, and cameras, to help them make their way around without human input. This combination of technology means that self-driving cars can gather and use information about their surroundings to work out where to drive and what to avoid.

Selenium was not specifically designed for cars – it also works on forklifts and cargo pods. It combines knowledge of its location with information about the local environment to create a safe path and determine the speed that it should be moving at to complete a safe journey.

By using cameras and lasers to work out where it is on the map, Selenium doesn’t require GPS. It can work out its location no matter what time of day it is, even if the weather is terrible. It uses sensors and algorithms to identify and track any obstacles that are around, including cars and pedestrians. Selenium can then work out a safe and efficient route using this information.

As Selenium doesn’t require GPS, it can work efficiently indoors and outdoors, over ground or underground. This makes it ideal for self-driving cars. The software has been created to give vehicles the intelligence to perform a variety of tasks without the help of a human, including motion control, braking, navigation, and detecting obstacles.

Laser technology

A LIDAR sensor is one that typically sits on the roof of a vehicle and produces a laser. It measures how long it takes for the laser to return in order to work out its surroundings. The sensor spins around to get a 360 degree view, making it ideal for self-driving cars.

Currently being tested at RACE’s AV test facility in Oxfordshire, the cars have been learning how to navigate roundabouts, handle tricky junctions, and cope with pedestrians and other vehicles.

The news of the self-driving cars follows the recent revelation that self-driving lorries will be loose on the UK’s major roads by 2019. Progress is marching ever forward, showing just how soon we could become used to sharing our roads with vehicles that don’t require a human presence behind the wheel.

How do you feel about self-driving vehicles? Are they the way of the future, or are we just using technology for technology’s sake? Leave a comment below to share your views. 

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