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How data could aid driverless cars

roads

A project to identify how data could be used to support driverless cars has won government funding.

The Atlas consortium – which includes regular automated vehicle consultancy Transport Research Laboratory alongside Ordnance Survey and others – was awarded cash by government agency Innovate UK for a feasibility study.

Starting on 1 May, the research will feed into ongoing efforts to make driverless cars viable for British roads. A senior minister this month predicted a transport “revolution” that would see driverless, electric vehicles slash air pollution, reduce the need for new roads and almost eliminate traffic accidents.

Ordnance Survey chief geospatial scientist Jeremy Morley this week set out some of the possible outcomes from the Atlas scheme.

“Autonomous vehicles will need to find their way reliably and safely through a vast network of streets while interacting with driven and other autonomous vehicles,” he said.

“Imagine sections of road… equipped with beacons using the potential of 5G technology and geospatial accuracy to sense unexpected objects such as children and animals that may unwittingly stray into the path of an oncoming autonomous vehicle.

“[Imagine] engines in autonomous cars that pick up on road surface conditions, perhaps, to adjust a car’s tyre pressures.

“What about catalytic converters that issue reports on fuel efficiency? Based on data coming from sensors embedded in the road’s surface, these could update an employee’s benefits in kind – in real-time.

“Dynamic cats-eyes that open and close as traffic passes, maybe. Smartphones equipped with apps to interpret gantry signals, automatically updating calendars and meeting requests depending on traffic flow.”

The study was one of 14 awarded funding alongside eight research and development projects this month. The money comes from the government’s £100M Intelligent Mobility Fund.

The government announced last year that driverless car trials would take place in four cities to develop the technology and gauge how it is received and used by the public.

A key technology figure last year told New Civil Engineer that the first generation of people who would never need to drive had already been born.

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