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Oxford’s AI firm Oxbotica gets £8.6m to lead driverless car consortium

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Oxford-based AI firm Oxbotica will be leading a consortium of companies to spur the development of driverless cars following a £8.6m Innovate UK grant.

The DRIVEN consortium seeks to place a fleet of fully autonomous cars in urban areas and motorways with the aim of eventually creating an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford.

The 30-month project plan, starting this month, will attempt to remove crucial barriers to real-world commercial deployment of driverless cars.

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Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, said today’s news was truly ground-breaking, adding:

“No company, group or consortium of autonomy experts has ever attempted what DRIVEN is planning over the next 30-months. We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project.”

The key challenges addressed by the consortium will be: communication and data sharing between connected vehicles, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles insurance modelling, risk profiling and the emerging cybersecurity challenges brought about by this new sharing of data.

Besides Oxbotica, other partners involved in the UK project include Oxford Robotics Institute, re/insurer XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.

Professor Paul Newman, head of the Oxford Robotics Institute based at the University of Oxford, and one of Oxbotica’s founders, said: “DRIVEN is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other.

“We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles – and what’s interesting to us at the Oxford Robotics Institute is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why,” concluded Newman.

In context

The news comes after 24% of consumers surveyed by Close Brothers Motor Finance’s Britain Under the Bonnet report, said they had no interest in buying a driverless car.

Additionally, some 26% of consumers said they weren’t fond of the idea, while 15% said they didn’t trust the technology.

The research comes after a report, published last month, said the UK government must look into the potential human and financial implications of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).

Produced by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, the report noted that the government’s work on CAV has so far focused too heavily focused on research and testing technologies, with inadequate effort being placed on thinking about deployment.

Oxbotica’s grant comes comes from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, part of the UK government’s £2bn pledge to support cutting-edge technology.

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