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University to contribute to £11 million driverless cars project

Published: 
9 October 2015

Researchers from the University of Southampton will be working on a new £11 million research programme to develop fully autonomous cars.

The programme, jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Jaguar Land Rover, is made up of five new projects, involving ten UK universities and the Transport Research Laboratory. It was announced today by Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover’s facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

The University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, will lead the Human Interaction: Designing Autonomy in Vehicles (HI:DAV) project to investigate how drivers will react to new autonomous systems.

Southampton driving simulator

Using Southampton’s driving simulator, which comprises a Jaguar XJ connected to computers with large projectors and screens, the team will test drivers of different ages, gender, experience and capabilities, in a range of scenarios (eg, different road types and environmental conditions) with different automation systems (eg, autonomous driving, auto 'valet' parking, adaptive vehicle personalisation, off-road assistance) and different interfaces.

The studies will then progress from the simulator to the test-track, as driver and vehicle interaction and interface designs evolve with testing. On the test-track, the physiological and psychological states of driver behaviour will be recorded to see what further changes are needed and whether the automation can be even more highly tailored. As the research progresses, revised designs will be taken into road going vehicles for the final set of tests.

Southampton driving simulator

Professor Neville Stanton from the University of Southampton, who is leading the HI:DAV project, says: “Highly automated vehicles are likely to be on public roads within the next ten years. The largest gap in our understanding of vehicle automation is how drivers will react to this new technology and how best to design the driver-automation interaction.

“This project will answer these questions by studying a wide range of drivers with different driving experience in simulators, or test-tracks and in road going vehicles. This approach aims to personalise the driver interfaces to the widest range of drivers possible so that the system adapts to the driver, rather than the driver having to adapt to the system.”

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “The UK Government has no intention of being a passenger in innovation so is pioneering autonomous car technology in partnership with industry. This £11 million research and development programme and the winning projects are a perfect example of this and will help to keep us at the forefront of the robotics revolution.”

As part of its strategic partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, EPSRC issued a joint call for research proposals that focussed on developing fully autonomous cars Towards Autonomy - Smart and Connected Control. Five projects were selected and Jaguar Land Rover will be leading the collaboration with these successful research groups.

Southampton driving simulator

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “To realise the future potential for fully autonomous vehicles, we need to give drivers, pedestrians and other road users the confidence that a car driving around with little or no human input is a safe, viable and rewarding experience. These collaborative projects will bring some of the UK’s leading academics together with our autonomous driving team to address the fundamental real-world challenges that are part of our journey towards autonomous driving.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive and former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, said; “Science and engineering research is vital to technological innovation and to keeping UK businesses at the forefront of global markets. This joint investment shows how strategic partnerships between the research councils, universities and business can identify industry’s challenges and build the academic expertise needed to meet them. The universities and partners in these projects will take novel approaches to safely change the way we travel in the future.”

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