The government has granted funding for a prototype autonomous vehicle that could transform the way that highways services are delivered. It could also be used to gather data for condition monitoring.
Highway services contractor Amey, in partnership with Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE), which is part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, has secured funding from Innovate UK to build a prototype autonomous vehicle and test data collected from its sensors.
Backing for the project is part of a wider government push towards driverless vehicles.
The vehicle will be built as part of The Connected Autonomous Sensing Service Delivery Vehicles (CASS-DV) study and will undertake tasks currently completed manually such as grass cutting and street cleaning. The vehicle will simultaneously provide real time data through sensors on the surrounding environment that it drives around including: the condition of street furniture, bridges or even the road surface. Other information which could be gathered from sensors includes environmental factors such as air quality and vegetation growth.
If the 15 month CASS-DV study is successful, it could see autonomous vehicles delivering a whole range of urban maintenance activities across the UK and will remove risk and improve the safety of our people completing tasks in high risk areas.
Amey director of technology Rick Robinson said: “We believe that the pioneering study will not only help to transform the quality and quantity of data on road conditions, but will provide cost efficiencies to our clients as well as delivering real improvements in safety and service quality.”
The vehicles will be tested at Culhum Science Centre in Oxfordshire which is set to become a major test and validation site for the vehicles. RACE’s knowledge and network of autonomous vehicle providers will form the basis for the development of the CASS-DV study. RACE is also able to contribute its strengths in engineering and software development through their centre of excellence in robotics and autonomous systems.
The project is one of 38 automotive R&D projects to share in £109m of government funding. The full list is at www.gov.uk.
Innovate UK chief executive Ruth McKernan said: “These successful industry-led R&D projects will further spearhead UK development of low emission, and connected and autonomous vehicle technology, building on our world-leading research and innovation capability in this area and the significant strength of UK businesses large and small in this field.”