London boroughs kickstart driverless car initiative

Written by Sam Trendall on 21 August 2018 in News
News

Data will be gathered across Croydon and Bromley ahead of planned trials of an autonomous passenger service next year

Credit: Croydon Council

An autonomous vehicle company will be gathering data on road users’ behaviour across two London boroughs over the coming months with the aim of developing “a shared driverless passenger service” to be trialled in the capital next year.

Cambridge-based start-up FiveAI will be driving up to 10 of its cars around Croydon and Bromley over the next 10 months. All of these will be driven by trained safety drivers and will only be engaged in collecting data – not testing the firm’s autonomous-vehicle software. 

Vehicles will be driven at various times of day to help FiveAI develop a comprehensive picture of the behaviour of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The information gathered – which will include images and geometric data – will be used to help improve the firm’s technology, with the aim of piloting a shared passenger service sometime in 2019. 

The cars (one of which is pictured above being driven around Croydon) will be emblazoned with FiveAI’s logo and will be equipped with forward-facing sensors positioned on the roof.


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Croydon Council said that all data gathered by the vehicles “will be collected, processed and stored in full compliance with UK and EU law including the GDPR, and will not be used in conjunction with any other datasets which could be used to identify individuals, or for any other purpose”.

Councillor Stuart King, cabinet member for environment, transport and regeneration, said: “Automated vehicles have the potential to improve access to transport especially in the less well-connected areas of the borough and they offer an exciting opportunity to widen travel options for our residents.”

He added: “These preliminary activities will see drivers in specialised cars travelling across the borough to gather data on the operation of the road network in a variety of conditions. I am looking forward to seeing how autonomous vehicles can help Croydon achieve its potential.”

Local authorities in Bromley and Croydon join a growing list of public-sector entities to begin explorations of the potential of autonomous vehicles. 

The government-funded GATEway project – which brought together a range of public, private, and third sector organisations – piloted the use of driverless vehicles on London’s Greenwich peninsula for a five-month period beginning in late 2017. This spring the public were invited to apply to take part in the final stages of the trials.

Milton Keynes has also conducted extensive trials of driverless pods on the walkways, cycle paths, and underpasses that connect the town centre and the train station. 

Meanwhile, the mayor of Boston in the US recently announced that testing of autonomous vehicles was being expanded across the city’s entire road network.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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