Bromley streets being used to test driverless cars
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 April 2019
Driverless cars have been operating around the streets of Bromley since Tuesday.
A company called FiveAI is behind the scheme – they specialise in several fields of artificial intelligence.
For now at least, five cars will negotiate their way around the roads with a trained operator in the driver’s seat in case anything goes wrong.
But it is understand there are plans to run those cars with no one in control if these initial trials prove completely successful. The test is also under way in Croydon.
The company says they hope to have a completely autonomous trial running as soon as next year with just passengers in the vehicles.
For now, the vehicles in Bromley will be running at various times, day and night, all week with trained safety drivers inside at all times to take control if required.
The data gathering process started last August in London so their autonomous vehicles, or AV, can better understand the urban environments.
To do this, vehicles were driven manually to collect data including information such as road layout, road user behaviour and demand patterns. This provides the company with unprecedented degrees of insight into the local environment.
They said this data ensures the vehicles are matched with the environment they need to operate in, and the sophisticated sensor array technology that will together help the cars operate safely while being tested in autonomous mode eventually.
The company said these tests will be incrementally expanded over the coming months.
The five vehicles involved in this early stage of testing may be seen operating in the area any day of the week, including day and night. Rigorous safety practices govern all of FiveAI’s operations and trained safety drivers will be present in the vehicle at all times, ready to take control if required, they said.
The vehicles are distinctive, with a visible sensor array installed on the roof, and are clearly branded to ensure transparency.
FiveAI said they are engaged with all relevant London stakeholders including the London Boroughs of Bromley and Croydon and Transport for London.
“Safety and trusted partnerships are crucial to everything we do,” said Stan Boland, FiveAI co-founder and CEO.
“We’ll continue to keep residents informed along the way, working closely with the London Boroughs and Transport for London.”
Councillor William Huntington-Thresher, Executive Councillor for Environment and Community Services for Bromley Council said: “We are grateful to FiveAI for their continued commitment to keeping our residents informed about their project. This is a significant announcement and an exciting step forwards. Although this whole area is inevitably still at an early development stage, the potential for technology to transform and improve the way we travel is real and we continue to watch this whole area with interest.”
TfL’s Director of Transport Innovation, Michael Hurwitz, said: “All cities across the UK, including London, need to understand the opportunities, risks and challenges they face when considering how transport will operate in the future.
“The outlook for autonomous vehicle technology is still uncertain, but it has the potential to significantly change travel –that’s why the Mayor’s Transport Strategy commits us to engaging with innovative companies, both now and in the future, at the earliest available opportunity.
“This will help ensure that the development of these types of vehicles is safe, environmentally-friendly and benefits the city, complementing our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”
And Future of Mobility Minister, Jesse Norman, added: “The long term potential for self-driving vehicles is huge – to improve road safety, tackle loneliness and isolation and create economic opportunity. So I welcome the safe testing of this new technology. But increasingly self-driving cars are just one of many innovations we are likely to see on our roads. The Government’s new Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy sets out how it will plan for their introduction.”
Car companies already involved with autonomous vehicle projects include Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Uber, Volvo and Volkswagen.