It’s been quite a journey since the launch of the GATEway project back in February 2015 – one of three driverless car projects announced under Innovate UK’s £10m competition entitled ‘Introducing driverless cars to UK roads’.
Hosted in Greenwich, the home of the GATEway project, the launch event saw the world’s press come together to learn more about the three projects and see first-hand what a future filled with automated vehicles, might look like.
The fanfare accompanying the launch heralded the arrival of the UK as a major player at the vanguard of automated vehicle development. In fact, the Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich even suggested that the event garnered more attention for the Borough than the 2012 Olympic Games, demonstrating the sheer volume of interest surrounding automated vehicles. So where are we now and what has been happening on the GATEway project since the launch?
Over the past 12 months we’ve seen significant steps by the government to position the UK at the forefront of development in this area. The initial launch event was used as a platform for the Department of Transport to publish a comprehensive document reviewing the UK regulatory position on the testing of automated vehicle technologies, providing clear guidance to those looking to develop and test automated vehicles. This was followed by the official publication of the DfT’s code of practice for the testing of automated vehicle technology in July, and the formation of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, a new joint policy unit to coordinate government policy on driverless cars and related technology.
With the green light given for the testing of automated vehicles in the UK, the GATEway project officially kicked off in October 2015.
As part of the project, we will be trialling and validating a series of different use cases for automated vehicles. This will involve live trials of highly and fully automated vehicles; full mission, high fidelity driving simulator tests; and demonstrations of remote vehicle operation – the first of which is due to start in late 2016.
In order to ensure that these trials run effectively and safely, over the past 6 months we’ve been working hard to lay the necessary foundations for the trials to ensure they are optimally developed and delivered and all risks understood and mitigated. One of the first key project milestones was to secure the automated vehicles that would enable us to deliver trials and in January 2016 we announced that a consortium comprising Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and University of Oxford spinout, Oxbotica, would deliver the shuttle vehicles for our first trial.
Following the announcement, the GATEway team has been relentlessly running through the checklist of tasks necessary for the operation of driverless shuttles in a public space. This includes:
- Negotiations with landowners and stakeholders to secure the trial route;
- Developing the shuttle vehicles from their current form to fully autonomous electric shuttles;
- Running 3D mapping exercises around Greenwich to help assess and plan the different routes and create a reference point for the shuttle vehicles to use for navigation and;
- Undertaking a thorough review to ensure potential risks are satisfactorily mitigated.
We have also held our first official GATEway project advisory group meeting. Hosted at the House of Lords and chaired by Lord Borwick of Hawkshead, the meeting brought together the GATEway consortium and representatives from across the transport sector to discuss the development of the project, as well as genuinely useful and exciting insights into how automated vehicles could revolutionise transport in urban environments.
Despite the huge progress that has been made since contract award, we are under no illusions about the enormity of the tasks that remain to deliver the GATEway project. However, the consortium remains very positive and highly motivated to deliver these fascinating automated vehicle trials over the next 12 months. Further details about the project and trials at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab @ Greenwich will be revealed over the following months, but one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be a fun and exhilarating ride!
Professor Nick Reed
Academy Directory at TRL and GATEway Technical Lead
Nick joined the Human Factors and Simulation group at TRL in January 2004 following post-doctoral work in visual perception at the University of Oxford. He has led a wide variety of studies using the full mission, high fidelity car and truck simulators with a number of published articles, conference papers, and appearances in national and international media. Nick also championed work in the area of vehicle automation at TRL, culminating in his technical leadership of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project – a flagship UK Government project to investigate the implications of the introduction of automated vehicles in the urban environment.
In addition to the GATEway project, Nick’s role now is as the TRL Academy director with responsibility for ensuring the technical quality of TRL’s research outputs, for supporting the academic development of TRL staff and for managing TRL’s engagement with stakeholders in industry and academia on programmes of collaborative research.