Emergent Tech

Artificial Intelligence

Futuristic driverless car technology to be trialled on... oh, a Ford Mondeo

Driven consortium floors it on the glamour front

By Gareth Corfield


Updated A Ford Fusion* has been fitted with autonomous driving technology as part of the Driven consortium's tech trials in Oxford, UK.

The consortium – which includes driverless car tech startup Oxbotica, domain registry Nominet, Telefónica and the Atomic Energy Authority – has also fitted a Range Rover Evoque and a Ford Mondeo with the self-driving tech.

"While local residents around our Oxford office will have had a few sneak previews of our first vehicle, now everyone can see our Range Rover Evoque, Ford Mondeo and Ford Fusion as they will appear early next year in self-driving mode on public roads around Oxford and then along the Oxford to London corridor," said Oxbotica chief exec Graeme Smith in a canned quote.

The cars are fitted with LIDAR sensors, cameras and onboard computers. At the heart of the software they run is Oxbotica's Selenium suite, which was tested in Woolwich, southeast London, during a driverless vehicle trial on public streets.

Use of the Mondeo, Ford's humble family workhorse, will doubtless raise sniggers among Britons. Former prime minister Tony Blair memorably cited the car in a pre-election speech about "Mondeo Man", the notional voter targeted by Blair's New Labour party. On the other hand, it's good to see a realistic platform being used by the trials team.

The three cars form part of a planned fleet of six vehicles trialling the autonomous vehicle software. As we reported in April, the 30-month trial will eventually see the cars driving themselves on public roads and even motorways. The technology in use seems to conform to Level 4, meaning the vehicle will take full charge of itself but have a human aboard ready to take back control.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, added: "High-visibility branding of the test vehicles is a good thing, as they move from extensive off-road trials to streets where they'll be mixing with everyday traffic, so that we know not to panic when we see one approaching with no one holding the steering wheel."

The Atomic Energy Agency is part of the £8.9m Driven consortium chiefly because its test track at Culham, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, is being used as the base for Oxbotica's full-scale non-public trials. A promotional video can be found on the Race test centre website.

A public demonstration of the Driven consortium's fleet, which will eventually number six vehicles in total, is planned for early 2018. ®

*We originally identified the Fusion in our top pic as a Mondeo. We've since updated the story.

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