A consortium of British companies known as ‘Driven,’ has unveiled a plan to test driverless cars on UK roads and motorways by 2019.
Despite the advances and trials taking place in other parts of the world by the likes of Google, Ford, and Tesla to do with autonomous self driving vehicles, the UK Government still reckons that ploughing money into driverless car research could be a beneficial move for Britain. The UK government have actually made it a pillar of its industrial strategy.
And why wouldn’t they?
While the competition from global tech giants may be stiff, the UK does have an abundance of artificial intelligence and computer vision experts at British universities and is an AI startup hotbed of talent at the moment, especially in the South East of the country.
The UK’s Departments for Business and Transport have handed the Driven group £12.8 million to research and develop self-driving technology, and have said it wants to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the new technology.
Traffic congestion and robot drivers
As well as having been given license to research and trial driverless cars in London, one of the busiest and congested cities in the world, the Driven group has also laid out plans to try out a fleet of autonomous vehicles that will drive the 51 miles between the cities of London and Oxford.
As part of the trial by Driven, the consortium also has ideas to demonstrate a fully-working system that would allow people to order driverless rides through a smartphone app, in much the same way that people can summon Uber cabs at present.
An AI firm called FiveAI, based in Cambridge, has been tasked with developing the technology alongside Direct Line, the University of Oxford, Transport for London and the Transport Research Laboratory. The company already designs similar software for other companies around the world.
A drop in the ocean
The funding from the UK government though will only go so far. Put simply, £12.8 million doesn’t go very far in the driverless car business. Driven will still have to raise substantially larger amounts of funding from other investors to ensure the project actually gets their autonomous vehicles on the road. The consortium hopes that with the UK government fully invested in the project, that attracting the money privately shouldn’t be too large an obstacle.