Project update: September 2016

By 9th September 2016Blog

As we enter a new month, we’re fast approaching the half way mark for the GATEway project which officially kicked off on the 1st October 2015. With interest in the project continuing to grow and the start of trials drawing closer, below are the key developments in the project over the past six months:

1. We opened trial registration
Back in May we opened the door for members of public to register take part in the GATEway project. Since then over 5,000 people have registered for a chance to take part which really demonstrates the enthusiasm and interest in automated vehicles. Some have already had a chance to get involved in different elements of the project, while others are waiting for a chance to ride on the vehicles in the trials, which are due to start late autumn 2016.

2. We started our public engagement activities
In June we kicked-off our pre-trial engagement activities; working with members of the public to learn more about what the public really think about the idea of driverless vehicles. Over the past few months we have hosted a number of workshops in Greenwich to delve deeper into people’s thoughts and feelings towards these next generation of vehicles. Led by the Royal College of Art, these workshops encompass a number of different sets of questions, scenarios and creative activities to enable us to gain an insight into people’s attitudes towards the use of automated vehicles and their operation in cities.

3. We began collecting research data
As well as qualitative data, we have started to collect quantitative information about the public’s perception of automated vehicles via online channels. The University of Greenwich has launched an online questionnaire to understand how people may interact with autonomous vehicles, whilst Commonplace has launched an online heatmap of Greenwich where people can post their comments on where they think driverless vehicles will or won’t work.

4. We started LIDAR mapping the Greenwich environment
To enable safe navigation, each of our GATEway vehicles will be pre-loaded with a detailed 3D ‘map’ of each test environment. These maps are created by human-driven vehicles that survey the test environment and collect data from the same sets of sensors that used by the automated vehicles. In preparation for the trials, Oxbotica’s survey vehicle has been navigating around Greenwich, mapping the environment in varying lighting and weather conditions. This process will continue up until the trials begin later this year. An example of one of the maps created from this process can be found here.

5. We demonstrated autonomous driving in Greenwich
In August we completed 100km of autonomous driving in Greenwich with Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software. The milestone was completed during a visit from Stephen Mullighan MP, South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister as part of pre-trial preparation and was the first demonstration of fully autonomous driving in Greenwich.

6. We completed the first phase of development of our 3D model of Greenwich
One of the trials we’ll be conducting as part of the GATEway project will use TRL’s high fidelity DigiCar driving simulator to investigate how drivers of regular cars respond and adapt their behaviour to the presence of automated vehicles on the roads. To ensure the trials are representative of real-world driving, we have been working with Agility3 to develop a realistic 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula road environment, ready for participant trials late autumn this year. The first phase of this development was completed at the end of August and a sneak preview of the 3D model can be found here.

7. We started development and testing of our trial vehicles
Since the start of the project the team has been busy developing a next generation of fully autonomous and electric vehicles capable of navigating around Greenwich. This involves not only the design and build of the vehicles and the autonomous control software, but also an extensive period of safety testing ahead of official trials in Greenwich. The vehicles for the shuttle trial in Greenwich are being developed by Westfield Sportscars, Oxbotica and Heathrow Enterprises and are now entering the final stage of this process. At the same time, Gobotix have been successfully safety testing their adapted M1 vehicle for remote operation of an autonomous vehicle that has gone into ‘safe’ mode and needs to be moved to a safe position.

8. We completed the first ever wind tunnel test on an autonomous vehicle
As part of our safety testing, we successfully carried out the first ever wind tunnel test on an autonomous vehicle in the UK. The test, conducted by Westfield Sportscars and supported by the Niche Vehicle Network, sought to improve the aerodynamic efficiency and confirm safety of automated shuttles, ahead of our driverless shuttle trials.

And it doesn’t stop there; the next few months promise to be even busier. Members of the GATEway team will be at LCV from the 14th – 15th September along with a GATEway prototype vehicle. We’ll also be speaking at the Driverless Technology Conference in Milton Keynes on the 22nd November.

The GATEway team