Driverless Cars are coming to MK

John Miles CroppedLast month UK Autodrive, an Arup led consortium, won a £20M government-funded competition to bring driverless cars to the UK using Milton Keynes to carry out controlled trials. Arup’s John Miles tells us more.

What is UK Autodrive?

It is an automotive industry collaborative programme that will develop the technologies and test public reaction to both driverless cars on the roads and lightweight, self-driving pods designed for short-distance public transport in large pedestrianised spaces. It will provide an important opportunity to approach these challenges seriously and in a manner which will allow the UK to take a lead in this exciting area of future transport. The programme will consider the significant implications of introducing autonomous vehicles from a technical, social and economic perspective.

Autonomous vehicle mock up CMKWhat does the competition win mean for Milton Keynes?

This win helps to reinforce Milton Keynes’ position as the UK’s leading city for transport innovation. Milton Keynes will provide the controlled testing grounds for these pioneering developments in intelligent mobility, working with the City of Coventry which will also provide some local test facilities for the midlands-based car manufacturers in the consortium. If all goes well in future, MK citizens will benefit from a wider choice of transport options when deciding how to get from A to B. Drivers needn’t fear, the first tests of the autonomous road vehicles will on closed roads and integration with human-driven vehicles will happen gradually, only once legislators, police and insurance companies are confident that they will operate safely.

When will it begin and how long will the trials last?

It is a three year project starting later this year. There will be careful stages of assessment to ensure the safety of passengers and those in the vicinity of the pods being tested. On-road testing will include the real-world evaluation of passenger cars with increasing levels of autonomy.

How does the project relate to MK:Smart?

I am lucky enough to be involved in both MK:Smart and UK Autodrive. The data I am working with in relation to MotionMap, MK:Smart’s application for helping citizens travel more easily, will also be used to help facilitate the trials of driverless vehicles.

MK:Smart’s MotionMap app will provide citizens with live information on road congestion and pedestrian traffic levels, as well as the availability of public transport, to help inform their transport decisions: Should I go shopping now or in an hour? While the vehicles developed by the UK Autodrive project will widen citizens’ choice of travel options: Shall I drive my car or take a driverless pod?

UK Autodrive builds on the momentum of MK:Smart. Milton Keynes is an advantageous location for such ground-breaking projects, as the road network is ideal for facilitating road testing and we’re fortunate enough to have a council which is forward-thinking and supportive of developing new technologies.