Driver­less cars hit Bri­tish streets in land­mark trial

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

MIL­TON KEYNES, United King­dom:

Driver­less ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers took to Bri­tain’s streets for the first time yes­ter­day in a land­mark trial which could pave the way for their in­tro­duc­tion across the coun­try. The com­pact two-seater cars trun­dled along a pedes­tri­an­ized zone in Mil­ton Keynes, north of London, in a trial by Trans­port Sys­tems Cat­a­pult (TSC) which plans to roll out 40 ve­hi­cles in the city. Neil Ful­ton, pro­gram di­rec­tor at TSC, said it rep­re­sented a “ma­jor mile­stone” for au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles in Bri­tain.

“The spe­cial thing about today is that this is the first time that a self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle has been tested in a pub­lic place” in Bri­tain, he said.

Al­though the sys­tem is cur­rently only be­ing tri­alled on pedes­tri­an­ized streets at speeds of around five miles per hour, self-driv­ing cars on Bri­tish roads “are not that far away”, he added. The “Se­le­nium” au­ton­omy soft­ware run­ning the ve­hi­cle, de­vel­oped by Ox­ford Univer­sity’s Ox­ford Ro­bot­ics In­sti­tute and its spinoff com­pany Oxbot­ica, uses data from cam­eras and lasers to nav­i­gate the route.

Un­like ex­ist­ing sys­tems, the tech­nol­ogy does not rely on GPS. “On the face of it, it is an­other au­ton­o­mous car, but un­der the hood, how it does what it does is very dif­fer­ent from what oth­ers are do­ing,” said Ing­mar Pos­ner who leads the Ox­ford Ro­bot­ics In­sti­tute along with Paul New­man. “The way it works is that the ve­hi­cle ex­pe­ri­ences its en­vi­ron­ment and in­ter­prets what it sees around it in the con­text of what it has seen be­fore.” He said the sys­tem could be in­te­grated into “any­thing that moves”, from cars and buses to fork­lift trucks, golf-carts and dis­abil­ity ve­hi­cles. “The cam­eras peer out at the world,” ex­plained New­man, a pro­fes­sor at Ox­ford Univer­sity’s de­part­ment of en­gi­neer­ing. “They take pic­tures of the world and the soft­ware com­pares those pic­tures with what it knows it should look like,” he said. The tech­nol­ogy will also be pi­loted in London’s Green­wich bor­ough to run eight ve­hi­cles around pedes­tri­an­ized ar­eas next year.

Bri­tain’s Busi­ness and En­ergy Sec­re­tary Greg Clark hailed yes­ter­day’s trial as “a ground-breaking mo­ment”. “The re­search that un­der­pins the tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware will have ap­pli­ca­tions way be­yond au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles,” he said. — AFP

LONDON: Ni­cola Men­del­sohn, Vice Pres­i­dent of EMEA at Face­book, speaks dur­ing an event to launch the so­cial me­dia com­pany’s lat­est prod­uct “Work­place” on Mon­day. —AFP

MIL­TON KEYNES: Peo­ple look to­wards an au­ton­o­mous self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle as it is tested in a pedes­tri­an­ized zone dur­ing a me­dia event yes­ter­day. —AFP

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