A successful test drive of an autonomous vehicle by Nissan Leaf has been hailed by ministers as further evidence of the UK's leadership in clean and intelligent vehicle technology
A Nissan Leaf has completed a 230-mile self-navigated journey around the UK, claiming it has completed the longest and most complex autonomous drive (AD) journey to take place to date.
The route was designed so that the car encountered a range of driving scenarios, including country lanes with no or minimal road markings, junctions, roundabouts, and motorways. The autonomous technology was able to make the car change lanes, merge, and stop and start.
Two engineers were on board to monitor the vehicle's actions at all times, with one behind the wheel and ready to take control if required, and the second supervising the car's control and monitoring systems.
The test, known as the HumanDrive project, took place following 30 months of work by a consortium of industry leaders, including car maker Nissan, artificial intelligence developer Hitachi, the University of Leeds, cyber security experts from Atkins, and Cranfield University.
The £13.5m project was jointly funded by UK government organisations the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Innovate UK, alongside nine other consortium partners. The test drive was carried out with the knowledge of Highways England and other relevant authorities.
The test vehicle featured GPS, radar, LIDAR, and camera technologies that build up a perception of the world around it. The system then uses the information to make real time decisions about how to navigate roads and obstacles it encounters on a journey.
A separate test on private tracks investigated how machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies could emulate a natural, human-like driving style.
David Moss, senior vice president for research and development in Europe, Nissan Europe, said the research was part of the company's wider plans for develop self-driving and ultra-efficient electric vehicles. "Nissan's Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world," he said. "The door is now open to build on this successful UK research project, as we move towards a future which is more autonomous, more electric, and more connected."
The project was also welcomed by Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman, who argued it provided further evidence that "the UK is fast becoming a leader in intelligent and automated vehicle and traffic management technology, a huge global sector set to create thousands of jobs".
"Nissan's successful HumanDrive project is an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK's transport revolution could look," he added.
The research also investigated how to advance cyber security features in AD vehicles, develop testing and safety methodologies for UK AD testing, and the implications of AD vehicles on the wider transport system.
The news comes in the same week as the government announced it is to consult on pulling forward the target date for phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or potentially earlier.
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