On 20 May 2022, Oxford-based autonomous vehicle software specialist, Oxbotica, announced a landmark success – the first zero-occupancy, fully self-driving, electric vehicle on publicly accessible roads anywhere in Europe.
The sensational road test, conducted in Oxford earlier this month, was praised by Lord Grimstone of Boscobel, Minister of State for Investment jointly at the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), formerly Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Barclays Bank.
“Oxbotica’s completion of Europe’s first zero-occupancy self-driving vehicle journey on the road is testament to the UK’s world class automotive sector,” he said.
“This exciting development will further strengthen the UK’s reputation as a leading destination to develop and deploy self-driving vehicles, as well as helping grow a sector that will support highly-skilled jobs across the country.”
Self-driving European 1st
In a video detailing the achievement, Oxbotica founder & CTO, Paul Newman, explained: “Today, we ran an autonomous vehicle with no driver on open roads in the UK for the first time. It’s a great moment for this business and for the ecology of driverless vehicle technology in the UK.”
The peculiar-looking all-electric AppliedEV boasts radar vision, laser-based sensors and the Oxbotica Driver System, but what is more striking is what it doesn’t have – doors, windows, seats, pedals or a steering wheel.
Instead, it features an array of self-driving tech mounted on a small pylon fixed to the centre of the chassis.
The Oxbotica Driver software provides the vehicle with a rich understanding of its surroundings, with multiple Artificial Intelligence (AI) continuously checking decisions.
Coming hot on the heels of its strategic partnership agreement with NEVS, Oxbotica says the successful trial sets a new benchmark for safety standards in autonomous vehicle (AV) testing, as well as marking “the next step in commercialising AV technology”.
Newman continued: “Oxbotica is changing the way people and goods move. Our goal is to be indistinguishable from perfect on safety, and this achievement, alongside our partners, is proof of that. It’s a historic moment for the UK, the transport and logistics sector, and autonomous vehicle technology.”
The plan is to deploy a goods delivery variant for grocery business Ocado as early as next year (2023).
Alex Harvey, Chief of Advanced Technology at Ocado Technology, said: “This is a fantastic milestone and we are delighted to see Oxbotica making significant progress towards zero-occupancy goods deliveries.
“We continue to collaborate closely with Oxbotica and are excited about providing this transformational capability to Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) partners at the earliest possible opportunity.”
The successful on-road trial, conducted in line with the UK Code of Practice 2019, and BSI’s PAS 1881:2020 and PAS 1883:2020 standards, also represents important progress for insurance solutions as part of the UK’s evolving mobility network.
The insurance was arranged by broker Marsh and created by Apollo Group’s Insuring Businesses Of Tomorrow, Today (ibott) initiative, in partnership with Aioi Nissay Dowa Europe.
Oxbotica says it is the first insurance of its kind in the UK, tailored specifically for the risks associated with Level 4 autonomy on open roads.
Gavin Jackson, Oxbotica CEO, concluded: “This Europe-first trial positions the UK as the number one destination for autonomous vehicle development and leapfrogs us towards commercialisation and the subsequent economic benefits available in this hyper-growth technology category.
“Autonomous vehicles will create billions of pounds in new revenues and generate thousands of high-skilled jobs, while helping cities and businesses meet their targets for carbon reductions.
“Our zero-occupancy, all-electric, fully autonomous prototype is exactly the new-type vehicle that will form the mainstay of the transportation industry for decades to come.”
Oxbotica will now focus on accelerating commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles globally, working with big-name partners including ZF, BP and NEVS.