Autonomous Vehicles testing in London

LONDON, U.K.–Supervised autonomous vehicle tests have started in two London boroughs, according to FiveAI, which specializes in autonomous vehicles, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

FiveAI said the trials, in Bromley and Croydon, represented a “significant next step towards launching autonomous, shared services in London.” Passenger trials are planned to start in 2020.

Five vehicles will be used in the testing and are set to be on the streets both day and night. Safety drivers will be in the vehicles at all times and have the ability to take control of the cars.

FiveAI undertook data gathering exercises in August 2018 in preparation of the tests. Vehicles were driven on the suburban roads to gather data on things such as road use behavior and street layout. Following AV protocol, vehicles will be clearly marked to let other road users know they are autonomous.

In the U.S., Reuters recently released a poll showing that three-quarters of consumers are quite wary of autonomous driving, and will not embrace the technology easily. There are similar findings in the U.K.

“All cities across the U.K., including London, need to understand the opportunities, risks, and challenges they face when considering how transport will operate in the future,” Michael Hurwitz, Transport for London’s director of Transport Innovation, said in a statement.

The U.K. government announced plans for the first driverless transport services by 2021, including a driverless bus service crossing the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh and self-driving taxis in four London boroughs.

Oxbotica signed a deal with taxi company Addison in 2018 to launch a driverless taxi service in the capital by 2021.

Both companies agreed to map over 250,000 miles of public roads in an attempt to refine the Artificial Intelligence used by the taxis to avoid and anticipate obstacles.

UK-based projects are racing to launch home-grown driverless car services in the UK ahead of Google’s Waymo project, which is estimated to be worth $175m and Uber.

Uber rival Lyft bought a London-based technology startup to push ahead with driverless car plans last month.  The US company bought Blue Vision Labs, a London-based firm that specialises in mapping street layouts using car-mounted smartphones.

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