Autonomous cars due to hit the streets of Birmingham

A programme to test the viability of self-driving cars is to begin in Birmingham with a fleet of vehicles operating from this week

Self Driving Ford mondeo

A fleet of self-driving ‘autonomous’ cars is to begin on-road testing in Birmingham this week, as tech company Oxbotica launches Project Endeavor.

The fleet of cars will be operating between the city centre and Birmingham International Airport along the A45. The route will allow the cars to experience industrial and residential roads, taking in roundabouts, traffic lights and junctions.

The Project Endeavour trial will feature four Ford Mondeo vehicles fitted with LiDAR, radar and stereo cameras and integrated with Oxbotica’s autonomy software platform. The cars are not being let loose on the public roads totally un-aided, a trained driver will be in the vehicle at all times to take over the control if needed.

Dr Graeme Smith, Senior Vice President at Oxbotica and Director of Project Endeavour, said:

“Project Endeavour is a one-of-a-kind research project that is allowing us to learn about the challenges of deploying autonomous vehicles in multiple cities across the UK – a key part of being able to deploy services safely and at scale. This stage of the mobility project is a new step for us, as Birmingham hosts our fleet of autonomous vehicles for the first time in real-life environments, and there has been a huge amount of enthusiasm from the local authority in the UK’s second-largest city ahead of the deployment. So far, Project Endeavour has been a real collaborative effort, bringing everyone into the discussion: from local authorities to road safety groups, transport providers, and, most importantly, the general public.”

The news of the trial will be a concern for many motorcyclists since IAM RoadSmart found that 60% of road users feel that self-driving cars are a ‘Serious threat to road safety.'

Talking about autonomous cars in general, IAM RoadSmart director, Neil Greig said:

“Autonomous and automated vehicle technology is becoming an integral part of everyday motoring and while it does have the capacity to improve road safety, its capabilities must be fully understood to ensure we don’t over-rely on them.

“Over-reliance on these systems, and a lack of training on how to use them, could have a negative effect, with potentially worrying results for motorists and pedestrians alike.”

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