UK companies developing driverless cars

Although Europe is trailing behind the rest of the world when it comes to connected and autonomous vehicle technology, a number of UK-based companies are hoping to change that.

A massive £500 million has already been invested here by the automotive industry, technology companies and the UK government into R&D and testing of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and former Chancellor Phillip Hammond has said he expects to see autonomous vehicles on British roads by 2021.

With large-scale investments, comprehensive legislation and a number of test-centres across the country already in place, below is a list of some of the companies taking advantage of the UK’s global, mass-market potential for this technology.

Zenzic

Zenzic

Zenzicis a ‘co-ordination hub’ joint venture launched by the UK government and the Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) industry back in 2017 to focus on the key areas of UK capability in the global connected and self-driving sector.

By bringing together government, industry and academia, Zenzic hopes to cement the UK’s standing in autonomous vehicle development and deliver a 2030 roadmap to guide key decision makers, policy makers and future investors. Currently, Zenzic is running a £200 million programme, 50 percent of which is funded by the government and 50 percent by industry.

The project aims to help organisations operating within the sector to collectively build a comprehensive testing and development environment across the UK.

O2

O2

Telecoms provider O2 has been rolling out its 5G network this year via a network sharing agreement with Vodafone. While O2 is not pioneering driverless car technology itself, the company has recently signed an agreement to power the testing of autonomous vehicles with its 5G technology, starting at a test bed in Greenwich and at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

The 3.4GHz 5G-ready spectrum will allow driverless vehicles and smart transport systems to be trialed on London’s roads. The lab brings together experts from TRL, DG Cities, Cisco and Loughborough University, making it one of the most advanced driverless testbed in the world.

Five.ai

Five.ai

FiveAIis a Cambridge-based company that is developing autonomous vehicle technology for use on the complex streets of European cities. Unlike the US, most European cities still have the same road layouts from when horse and carts roamed the streets, presenting a number of unique challenges for autonomous vehicles.

FiveAI was founded in 2015 with the aim of brining together the best minds in artificial intelligence, engineering and mobility to deliver a fully autonomous shared transport service for Europe’s cities. In April 2019, the company began running driverless car trials on selected public roads in Bromley and Croydon in London, partnering with the government-funded initiative StreetWise.

In 2017 the company raised £26.8 million in funding, including £12.8 million from the StreetWise project. The aim is to start offering a commercial service in London by 2022.

Oxbotica

Oxbotica

Oxboticais an autonomous vehicle software company that has both its headquarters and a test facility in the city of Oxford. Using state of the art computer vision and machine learning technology, Oxbotica’s systems learn from their environment and share experiences with each other, meaning they're getting smarter all the time.

The system uses sensors and algorithms to identify and track pedestrians, cars and other obstacles in the environment.

The company began life as a spin-out from Oxford University's Mobile Robotics Group, which sits in the Department of Engineering Science, in 2014. Three years later, Oxbotica ran an autonomous grocery delivery service with Ocado in London and provided the autonomy software for an autonomous shuttle in Greenwich.

At the start of 2019, Innovate UK awarded Oxbotica £8.9 million in funding to boost its autonomous vehicle testing efforts. Although the company already has vehicles driving on Oxford’s roads on a daily basis, this latest funding will allow it to start additional trials on the streets on London.

StreetDrone

StreetDrone

StreetDroneis a development platform for self-driving, electric car software and hardware that says its mission is to 'bring full autonomy to the world, faster'.

Also based in Oxford, the self-driving test vehicle specialists founded in 2016 have developed the Xenos platform. Using a combination of software and hardware technology, the platform allows vehicles to communicate with autonomous applications, such as AI, self-driving software stacks, and remote mission control system.

Aimed primarily at the higher education market, the StreetDrone Intelligent Development platform (SID) will be the largest open source repository of autonomous software in the world. On the hardware side, StreetDrone has already developed a self-drive ready electric car on which the software can be tested.

Flourish

Flourish

Flourishis a multi-sector collaboration enterprise, aiming to advance the successful implementation of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) in the UK. Its three-year project was complete this week and has cost of £5.5 million. It was co-funded by industry leaders and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

Like Oxbotica, Flourish has also partnered with Innovate UK as part of the UK government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund, supporting the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge. The project explored how connected and autonomous technology can be harnessed to enhance and enable mobility for older adults and those with mobility-related needs, contributing to the development of a stronger and more inclusive society.

The Flourish team has also pioneered an Incident Response Framework, to maintain the integrity and service availability of wireless communications between digital and physical assets.

Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar and Land Roverhave long been stalwarts of the UK car industry and since they merged in 2008, the company has invested and expanded into a wide-range of automotive technologies.

In 2018, the company announced it had completed the first ever self-driving lap of one of the UK’s most challenging road layouts, Coventry Ring Road, in a prototype self-driving Range Rover Sport. The trial saw the vehicle successfully change lanes, merge with traffic and exit junctions at the speed limit of 40mph.

Jaguar Land Rover also have plans to create a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles over the next four years, to develop and test a wide range of CAV technologies.

Wayve

Wayve

Wayveis a Cambridge-based startup that was founded by two machine learning PhD researchers in 2017. The company pioneers artificial intelligence software for self-driving cars via a unique end-to-end machine learning approach that teaches vehicles to drive in new places more efficiently than competing technology.

The current team comprises of ex-employees from Google, BCG, Ubisoft, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft Research, Skydio, NASA and Facebook AI Research and the company gained notoriety in mid-2018 when it released a video showing its technology teach an autonomous vehicle to remain in its lane whilst driving, in under twenty minutes.

Wayve have been testing vehicles on public roads since 2018 and is now working on scaling up its technology to enable vehicles to complete more complex driving tasks such as dealing with traffic lights, roundabouts and intersections.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.