In a recent article in the Financial Times featuring developments in driverless cars testing as exhibited at Transport Systems Catapult’s Imagine Festival Tim Armitage, who is leading a trial of autonomous road-going cars and public transport in the Autodrive consortium, said he has been approached by at least two large global car manufacturers that want to conduct tests in the UK.
In public however, car companies continue to incrementally adding features to assist drivers that may point the way to the driverless experience, or at least, bit-by-bit, prepare drivers for the transition to seem less traumatic.
This week Carlos Ghosn Present and CEO of Nissan write in his company’s annual sustainability report that “As we work to bring vehicles with Autonomous Drive to the market by 2020, we are incorporating this technology into our vehicles and introducing its benefits on a progressive basis”.
Daimler and Bosch in Germany Working on Automatic Parking Technology. So is BMW and Jaguar Land Rover (a partner in the Autodrive project) showcase a remote control Range Rover Sport, controlled by the driver on a smartphone.
Ford too, this week, previewed new camera technology helps drivers see around corners.
One hundred million pounds of support offered in the last budget
As reported by the Financial Times, the previous coalition government threw its weight behind driverless cars, starting three trials — in Greenwich, Bristol and Milton Keynes — backed by the likes of Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors as well as £19m of public money.
It pledged an extra £100m in the Budget in March, a figure to be matched by industry.
The partners in the UK Autodrive consortium are Arup, Milton Keynes Council, Coventry Council, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Company, Tata Motors European Technical Centre, RDM Group, MIRA, Oxbotica, AXA, law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co., the Transport Systems Catapult, the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and the Open University.
Three projects Three projects GATEway driverless cars project, supported by Innovate UK
The other two consortia that were selected to test driverless cars for Introducing driverless cars to UK roads competition were the GATEway project, which stands for the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment led by TRL, and the VENTURER consortium led by Atkins that will test driverless cars in the Bristol region.
Ford appoints director of autonomous vehicle development
Yesterday in Silicon Valley, California, Ford claimed that aAutonomous vehicle technology is a step closer to production, as it moves from a research effort to an advanced engineering programme.
Ford has appointed a director of autonomous vehicle development – 29-year Ford veteran Randy Visintainer – and created a global team to work on the advanced programme.
Ford said its Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is working on the global Ford team to deliver the Ford Smart Mobility plan, which aims to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data.
“During the next five years, we will move to migrate driver-assist technologies across our product lineup to help make our roads safer and continue to increase automated driving capability,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “At the same time, we are working to make sure those features and the whole way you shop for, buy and own a Ford vehicle provides an outstanding customer experience.”
Ford claims it offers more models in the United States with active park assist, rear cross- traffic alert, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping aid, and blind spot monitoring than any other mainstream manufacturer, according to SBD research.
The company also announced it has developed 3D printing technology that grows parts from UV curable resins to make elastomer grommets for the Ford Focus Electric and damping bumper parts for the Transit Connect.
It also promised a MyFord Mobile app extension for smartwatches.
Technology to help drivers see around corners
Ford also said it is introducing new vehicle camera technology that can help see around corners even when drivers cannot, aiding in reducing driver stress and potentially averting accidents.
The new available split-view camera feature helps drivers see traffic and obstacles that enter the vehicle’s path from the side by displaying a 180-degree view of the area in front of or behind a vehicle. Ford said this is its latest example of how it is using camera technology to help make driving easier.
Split view uses real-time video feeds from 1-megapixel wide-angle lens cameras in the grille and tailgate. A tri-panel display in the 8-inch screen helps customers understand quickly whether an obstacle is coming from either side or straight on. Split view is activated at the touch of a button and automatically shuts off when vehicle speed reaches 6.2 mph (10 kph).
Ford warns, however, that its driver-assist features are supplemental and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgment and need to control the vehicle.
Google Self-Driving Car Project starts up a monthly progress report - just a few bumps from behind or the side
As it tests on roads in some parts of the United States Google has launched a dedicated microsite for its Google Self-Driving Car Project - promising a monthly report on progress.
After six years, it’s still learning, “Every day we head out onto public streets so we can keep challenging and refining our software”.
Here are some highlights from recent testing, as of 3 June 2015:
'Autonomous mode’ means the software is driving the vehicle, and safety drivers are not touching the manual controls. “Manual mode” means the safety drivers are driving the car.
Each month Google says it will provide some interesting situations it encounters in its travels. The first scene from the street this month shows an example of how a vehicle responded to emergency vehicles differently to ordinary trucks, cars, and motorcycles.
‘Interesting Situation of the Month’ for May shows its car able to predict a cyclist’s path of travel (traveling against the flow of traffic) at night, when it would have been very difficult for a human driver to see what unfolded.
In the six years of the project, Google claim to have been involved in 12 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving. Not once, it says, was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.
For the first report, it included summaries of all accidents since the start of the project in 2009. In future monthly reports, it promised to provide info on accidents in that month.
The first accident reports was in 2010 where the Google AV was rear-ended by another vehicle while stopped at a traffic light. No injuries occurred.
This set the pattern for most of the accidents since.
It isn't stated, however, whether these slow speed collisions had anything to do with the driver coming up behind being distracted - or propelled by any other common bad human road behaviour - when approaching a Google driverless vehicle.