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Public authorities join driverless car research



Greenwich and Ordnance Survey among members of consortium investigating data for autonomous vehicles

A London borough and Ordnance Survey are taking part in a project to study the operation of driverless cars.

Greenwich and the national mapping agency have entered a consortium with the Satellite Applications Catapult, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Sony Europe and two small companies working on autonomous and navigation systems – Gobotix and OXTS – on the Atlas project.

It will begin on 1 May, focusing on data that supports the use of cars without drivers, and has received a slice of the £20 million of Government funds for research on connected vehicles and roadside infrastructure.

The move is an early step towards assessing the use of the technology on public roads and its future demands on highways management.

Rob Wallis, chief executive officer at TRL said; “Atlas is the latest in a string of innovative projects to be making use of TRL’s UK Smart Mobility Lab at Greenwich. It is an important project for autonomous vehicle development because the success of this work will not only enable safe navigation of these vehicles, but help to transform our transport system and ultimately save lives.

“If we can understand how to safely and securely transfer data between vehicles, then we really can put the UK at the forefront of connected and automated mobility.”


The technology is advancing quickly and promises significant benefits in areas such as running costs and environmental advantages. In addition to the development of the vehicles, it involves the use of smartphone apps that can interpret gantry signals, and sensors embedded in roads that can provide data on conditions.

But driverless cars will have to find their way safely through streets while interacting with other autonomous vehicles and those with drivers.

Denise Hyland, leader of Greenwich Council, said: “Connected and autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform mobility and land use patterns in our cities, and Greenwich is committed to understanding how cities need to respond to support their deployment, and capture the opportunities they can bring.

“This project, supported by Innovate UK, complements the work being undertaken by the Royal Borough of Greenwich on smart city innovation and smart mobility - work that we believe will be significant for all cities in the future."

The prospect for driverless cars attracted widespread attention with Google's launch of a vehicle that has been tested in California, but the prospects of their emergence for everyday use has increased with announcements of major investments by car companies such as Ford and Honda.

Image by Michael Shick, CC4.0 International through Wikimedia

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