Driverless car firm gets green light for London road trials
Image credit: FiveAI
A UK-based artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle firm has been given the green light to deploy data-gathering cars on the streets of London as part of plans to create a driverless car service.
FiveAI says it will spend 10 months using human-controlled cars to gather data on the roads in Bromley and Croydon, and the behaviour of road users such as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians - to help inform the development.
The firm is designing a shared autonomous service aimed at people who currently drive some or all of their daily commute and hopes to have a supervised trial of automated cars on London roads in 2019.
FiveAI co-founder Ben Peters said: “For our service to eventually operate in London, we have to learn about the road layout, topology and traffic flow. As with any vehicle on the road, safety is paramount and that’s why all of our vehicles will be driven by fully trained safety drivers."
“We believe that autonomous vehicles will be many times safer than human drivers and this data-gathering phase is a vitally important step towards making that a reality. By supporting London’s transport objectives with a shared driverless car service, FiveAI can play a crucial role in reducing congestion, emissions, incidents and the cost and time of journeys to benefit all Londoners.”
Last year, the company was part of a consortium that was awarded a grant of more than £12m by the Government to develop software for an autonomous car system, a project known as StreetWise.
FiveAI said the data gathered during the scheme will be used solely for its driverless vehicle technology and processed and stored in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It said its cars will be clearly branded and identified with an “obvious array” of sensors to ensure full transparency.
FiveAI has already surveyed London’s roads to examine the prevailing conditions. It has determined that cars, taxis and private hire vehicles take up nearly half of central London’s street space, but account for just 13 per cent of distance travelled, resulting in London drivers spending the equivalent of 17 days per year stuck in traffic.
More seriously, research estimates that long-term exposure to NO2 pollution is responsible for up to 5,900 deaths per year in London, while more directly 2,501 people were killed or seriously injured on London streets in road traffic collisions in 2016.
In 2017, E&T took part in a King’s College London experiment to assess how the pollution levels in the capital city have reached a critical state and to track the pollutants that Londoners routinely inhale.
Interest in driverless car programmes has increased rapidly in recent years, with Google-founded Waymo and all the major car manufacturers including Ford and BMW testing autonomous vehicle technology systems.