The UK Autodrive project supported by Transport Systems Catapult has successfully piloted a driverless vehicle through the busy streets of Milton Keynes, while it has also shown off new connected vehicle technologies.
The car took a set route from the TSC’s offices past the city’s main shopping centre, demonstrating its ability to cope with other traffic, pedestrians, traffic lights, roundabouts and parking.
For parking, the vehicle successfully driving itself to an available car park bay before parking itself, guided by the connected vehicle system being trialled.
SMART Highways editor Paul Hutton was among the select band of journalists invited to ride in the driverless vehicle and reports that it coped with the traffic very well, driving cautiously leaving large stopping distances and lengths between the vehicle in front and coping with “interesting” manoeuvres by human-driven vehicles.
The vehicle was followed by a human driven car which protected it, and its expensive sensors, from any risk of being rear-ended.
Project partners Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) demonstrated how cars could communicate with each other to notify drivers of available parking spaces – without the need for any additional parking bay sensors. Upon entering the car park, the cars get an updated heat map showing availability, while real-time updates from other connected cars show spaces filling and becoming vacant. In times of heavy traffic congestion, it has been estimated that up to 30% of that traffic consists of vehicles looking for parking spaces*. The technology being trialled as part of the UK Autodrive project is intended to take the guesswork out of finding spaces by sending information about available spaces directly to connected or autonomous cars.
“Connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to bring a large number of social benefits, from improved road safety to an easing of traffic congestion due in part by a reduction in accidents. The possible benefits in terms of parking should also not be overlooked,” said Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director.
“In the future connected features will alert drivers to empty car park spaces and autonomous vehicles will be able to drive straight to them. Valet parking systems will enable autonomous vehicles to drop passengers at convenient points, after which the vehicle will leave by itself to undertake a further journey, or park out-of-town. As well as making parking less of a hassle for individuals, these new ways of parking and drop-off will allow cities to radically redefine their use of space in the future – with far less land potentially needed for parking spaces in city centres.”
As well as demonstrating potential future parking solutions, the three car manufacturers also carried out their first public road trials of two connected car safety features.
The first involved an Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) system, which alerts drivers when an emergency vehicle is approaching and also indicates which direction it is coming from.
The second trial demonstrated an Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) feature which gives a warning when another connected car further up the road brakes heavily – potentially giving drivers several additional seconds to avoid a possible collision.
Check @smarthighwaysm on Twitter for videos of the driverless vehicle in action.