UBIPOS Co-Founder, George Ye, on life-saving Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) for self-driving.

On PNT for self-driving: More award winning Forth Road Bridge safety tech

You all know about CAVForth – Vehicle of the Year winner at the inaugural Self-driving Industry Awards – well, it turns out that’s not the only world-beating Forth Road Bridge tech project.

In 2019, the GNSS and Earth Observation for Structural Health Monitoring (GeoSHM) demonstration project, led by UBIPOS UK, won The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) award for Information, Data & Connectivity for a long-term commercial project designed to consign major bridge disasters to history. A pretty epic goal, we’re sure you’ll agree!

GeoSHM uses multiple space technologies and insitu sensors to provide a real-time picture of bridge movements and stresses. At its core are GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers that pick up positional data via the GPS, Galileo, BeiDou, GLONASS, IRNSS and QZSS global and regional satellite constellations. This monitoring is complemented by interferometric synthetic-aperture radar (InSAR) data provided by Earth Observation (EO) satellites that can track potential subsidence.

George Ye

The GeoSHM project was supported by The University of Nottingham, BRDI, Leica Geosystems, GVL and Transport Scotland – and the technology is now being brought to market by UBIPOS, along with more self-driving-specific services, as Co-Founder and Managing Director, George Ye, explains…

UBIPOS Co-Founder and MD, George Ye, on PNT for self-driving
UBIPOS Co-Founder and MD, George Ye, on PNT for self-driving

GY: “The GeoSHM project on the Forth Road Bridge has run in various incarnations for over a decade now, and we’ve conducted extensive tests on the Humber Bridge and Yangtze River Bridge in China too. We’re confident the tech is proven, so we are moving to commercialise it domestically and globally as the GeoSHM Pro Structural Health Monitoring System, a high-precision solution to optimise maintenance. It has the potential to save many, many lives.

“UBIPOS was formed in 2010 to solve the most challenging and complex sustainable smart city, intelligent mobility and precision agriculture issues. We are now recognised as a world-leading geospatial science company. We have offices in Central London and Milton Keynes, and a subsidiary in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Into self-driving

“We followed the CAVForth project with great interest because we are very into self-driving ourselves. We were closely involved in the European Space Agency’s recent CoDRIVE demonstration project, which aimed to build an intelligent mobility service platform for connected and automated vehicles to advance the transition towards shared mobility. Out of that, we are building towards establishing the ESA CONTACT demonstration project as a game-changing on-board Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) platform, offering cm- and eventually mm-level real-time positioning data for the manufacturers of traditional, hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as intelligent fleet mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) operators.

“To commercialise this ground-breaking product, we are partnering with a number of leading UK organisations and companies your readers will be familiar with – Imperial College London, Cambridge University spin-out RoboK.ai, National Highways contractor Kier Highways, globally leading engineering services specialist WSP UK, and the West Midlands Combined Authority. We have been sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and our priority is to get the costs down to enable this unit to be fitted into millions of new cars per year.”

George Ye keynote on self-driving at Cenex 2023

For further info visit ubipos.co.uk

Self-driving faced competition from celebs promoting glitzy tech concepts at CES 2024

Did self-driving steal the show at CES 2024?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was always big on self-driving, until last year, when Cleantechnica ran the headline: “CES 2023 Shies Away From Autonomous Driving Technology”. So, did self-driving bounce back to steal the show at CES 2024?

Well, not really. Remote driving made headlines, with Sony and Honda showing off their Afeela EV concept by driving it onto the CES stage using a PlayStation DualSense controller.

However, despite boasting 600+ mobility exhibitors at “one of the world’s largest and fastest growing global auto, mobility and transportation events”, there were precious few self-driving stories.

Techcrunch’s summary of stand-out products covered electrification, drones, AI, chatbots, in-cabin features and hydrogen. Automotive News majored on clean fuel, particularly Bosch Mobility’s new hydrogen combustion engine and Hyundai’s “full-scale hydrogen ambitions”.

Samsung CEO JH Han talks AI at CES 2024 (Credit: Consumer Technology Association)
Samsung CEO JH Han talks AI at CES 2024 (Credit: Consumer Technology Association)

Self-driving presence

That’s not to say there wasn’t a self-driving presence. PIX Moving promoted its partnership with Japan’s TIER IV, offering “white-label EV models” to “further boost the autonomous mobility ecosystem”, including the PIX Robobus…

The self-driving PIX Robobus was on show at CES 2024
The self-driving PIX Robobus was on show at CES 2024

Writing in Forbes, Brad Templeton (formerly of Google’s car team) highlighted a significant announcement from Amazon’s Zoox – they will start providing robotaxi rides in Las Vegas this year.

“While Zoox has been at this for a decade, what’s big is to see them finally entering a real pilot deployment at a time where the industry has lost players like Cruise (at least temporarily) and Argo, and little news has come from Motional, leaving Waymo almost alone in the west,” he said.

Important, but not as glitzy as the “crab drive” capabilities of the Hyundai Mobis concept, as interpreted by hip hop dance influencer Kirsten Dodgen…

Or the MBUX Sound Drive entertainment features from Mercedes-Benz and rapper Will.i.am…

Will.i.am at CES 2024 (Credit: Consumer Technology Association)
Will.i.am at CES 2024 (Credit: Consumer Technology Association)

Must try harder next year self-driving, or partner with a pop star.

Self-driving features in two flagship BBC programmes – Today and The Royal Institution Christmas Lecture

Great media coverage: The BBC has a very self-driving Christmas 2023

Throughout the five-year history of Cars of the Future, our Hyperbolic Headlines strand has highlighted the most egregious examples of negative self-driving media coverage.

Sometimes it is so biased or plain misinformed as to be quite amusing, but actually it is deadly serious, hugely damaging to consumer confidence.

Hats off, then, to the BBC for delivering not only some of the best consumer reporting we’ve seen to date, but also putting self-driving front and centre of its Christmas programming.

Christmas Lecture on self-driving

For starters, we highly recommend the 2023 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (here on Youtube if you’re outside the UK). Primarily aimed at 11-17 year olds, they are typically enjoyed by families [ok, I was forced to watch them by my dad and now happily do the same to my children!]. 

First televised on the BBC in 1936, the Christmas Lectures were conceived by Michael Faraday as an exciting new way of presenting science to young people. They have been held almost every year since 1825.

Professor Mike Wooldridge (Credit: Royal Institution)
Professor Mike Wooldridge (Credit: Royal Institution)

This year, Mike Wooldridge, Professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Oxford, explored “The dream of driverless cars” with help from our very own Industry Legend, Professor Paul Newman CBE, of Oxa.

This included analysing a real-life incident which occurred while Mike was travelling in Oxa’s test car in Oxford (with a safety driver). A human-driven car drove way too close to them on a roundabout, but the self-driving vehicle handled it smoothly and safely. Cue huge applause from the live teen audience in the theatre.

In any other month we’d have dedicated an entire article to this great show, but the Beeb had another treat in store.

Today on self-driving

On the days in between Christmas and New Year, James May (yes, he of The Grand Tour and formerly Top Gear) assumed guest editorship of the flagship Today news and current affairs programme.

This prestigious role has been filled in the past by Prince Harry, Greta Thunberg, Benjamin Zephaniah, Melinda Gates, Jarvis Cocker, Lewis Hamilton and Professor Stephen Hawking.

One of the three main subjects May chose to investigate, along with tea and hobbies (a man after our own heart), was self-driving. You can catch the highlights from 9.10 to 28.35 in this edit for BBC Sounds.

James May explored self-driving as guest editor of the Today programme
James May explored self-driving as guest editor of the Today programme

Questioning at the outset whether Level 5 self-driving was even possible, he began his research by trying out the Ford BlueCruise hands-free system, which is, as we know, is NOT self-driving.

He then spoke to Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, who has serious concerns about a “hybrid future” of mixed self-driving and human traffic. So far, May’s scepticism was only being reinforced. Then, as with the Christmas Lecture, Paul Newman came in to bat for self-driving.

He took May for a ride in an Oxa Ford Mondeo test car (with a safety driver) through an industrial estate on the outskirts of Oxford. “So, there we had a speedhump with a pedestrian crossing on top, and it recognised all of that,” admitted May. “This is annoying. This is slightly demolishing my prejudices. I have to say, I really might have to rewrite them a little bit.”

Newman softened the blow, saying: “You’re not wrong in the sense that it’s not immediate, but it’s hard to believe this technology isn’t going to arrive, and it’s hard to believe it isn’t going to be valuable and produce more choices.”

There followed a long interview with Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who explained: “Legislation is going through Parliament at the moment, so hopefully we’ll get that through by the end of 2024. Probably as early as 2026, people will start seeing some elements of these cars that have full self-driving capabilities being rolled-out.

“I’ve seen the technology being used in California, without a safety driver, so it exists, it works. What we’re doing is putting in place the proper legislation so that people can have full confidence in the safety.”

Responding to questions from May, “Why are we doing this? Who benefits?”, Harper said: “First of all, it will improve road safety. We already have very good road safety record in Britain, but there are still several thousand people a year killed on our roads – that could be improved.

“Second, it’s a big economic opportunity for Britain to get a big global share of the market. The final thing is there are a lot of people who currently don’t have the opportunity that many of us drivers take for granted. For example, people who have disabilities – this potentially opens up a whole new world of personal freedom.”

The 2026 quote lead to this BBC online news story – Driverless cars could be on some UK roads by the end of 2026, the transport secretary has told the BBC – which made headlines across the network, prompted articles in virtually every national newspaper, and got picked up internationally.

Is this a watershed moment in terms of UK self-driving media coverage? Time will tell, but it is certainly very welcome. Well done Oxa, and well done the BBC. 

Self-driving level visual realism – a look at rFpro’s new Ray Tracing simulation software

CCAV turn to F1’s rFpro for super realistic self-driving simulation software

A partner in not one but two of the major government-backed self-driving projects announced by CCAV in September 2023, Hampshire-based simulation software specialist rFpro is branching out from its traditional motorsport and automotive roots. MD Peter Daley explains how and why.

Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro
Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro

PD: “Yes, we’re a consortium partner in two of the Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility Supply Chain projects – DeepSafe and Sim4CAMSens.

“DeepSafe will develop simulation-based training to help automated vehicles handle edge cases, supporting verification and validation (V&V). Project leader dRISK bring a way of analysing the full range of unexpected driving scenarios, and other partners include Imperial College London, Claytex Services and DG Cities.

“Claytex, with whom we work closely, are also taking the lead in the Sim4CAMSens project, which has a core focus on sensor modelling and evaluation. Other partners here include the University of Warwick, National Physical Laboratory, Syselek, Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, Oxford RF and Techworkshub.

Self-driving environments

“At rFpro, we’ve been investing in driving simulation technology for years, allowing our customers to develop, test and optimise their vehicles more quickly, efficiently and effectively than they could by relying on real-world testing alone. We create very detailed large scale digital models of real-world environments, and offer high performance software which allows people to interact with those.

rFpro day/night in Tokyo simulation
rFpro day/night in Tokyo simulation

“Our real-time simulation software is used by many leading OEMs and professional motorsports teams (including in F1), in vehicle dynamics, human factors and other use cases.  However, the level of visual realism from images rendered in real-time using rasterising technology still wasn’t high enough to be used on its own for the training and testing of automated vehicle (AV) perception systems. Our new Ray Tracing technology addresses this. 

Self-driving realism

“With Ray Tracing, we can reliably simulate the huge number of reflections created by multiple light sources in a scene, even taking into account the properties of the materials the light is hitting, and apply this to every element in the scene as perceived by a vehicle-mounted sensor moving through it.

“Ray Tracing can be applied to the modelling of cameras, radar and lidar sensors. Our solution accurately replicates things like camera shutter effects, depth of field, lens distortion and light saturation across different weather and light conditions.

“Sensor vibrations coming from the vehicle moving across an uneven road surface are allowed for, as is the effect of motion blur from the relative motion between sensor and objects such as other vehicles, pedestrians or road signs and markings. 

Self-driving level of visual realism: Motion blur
Self-driving level visual realism: Motion blur
Self-driving level of visual realism: camera shutter slant effect
Self-driving level visual realism: Camera shutter slant effect

“In effect, the new technology accurately replicates what cameras and sensors really ‘see’ and presents it in ultra-high definition (UHD). It is a big leap forward and, taken together with rFpro’s renowned real-time solution, unique in the marketplace.

“The creation and use of synthetic test and training data, on a massive scale, to supplement the real-world testing of AV perception and control systems is now realistically achievable. We are excited to be continually finding new ways to support our customers in reaching their goals in this area.”

We celebrate our 5th birthday with a refresh and a look back at our self-driving journey to date.

Driverless to self-driving: Happy 5th birthday Cars of the Future

Thanks to Linkedin for reminding us that we’ve been providing news and views about all things self-driving for five whole years now. Happy 5th birthday Cars of the Future!

To celebrate, the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that we’ve treated ourselves to a bit of a refresh – technical upgrades, recategorised content and updated terminology.

We’ve also picked five of our favourite stories from the archives – one for each year – which can be seen as a journey from the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ towards the ‘Slope of Self-driving Enlightenment’.

Self-driving 2019-2024

The self-driving story that sparked Cars of the Future
The self-driving story that sparked Cars of the Future

2018/19 We have to begin with my Autonomous now: the shift to self-driving feature for the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). My editor at the time, Tim Kiek, said: “I’ve featured articles on autonomous vehicles throughout my tenure but never one which explores the topic with such forensic rigour.”

Following passionate but often misinformed feedback from lovers, haters and inbetweeners, we saw an urgent need for a new UK-centric self-driving news source. Cars of the Future was born! The full 2,600-word version of Autonomous Now was our first post.

Cars of the Future joins the Zenzic self-driving revolution
Cars of the Future joins the Zenzic self-driving revolution

2020 While the Covid 19 pandemic was raging and we were all in lockdown getting our heads around Zoom, we were delighted to be recognised as a Zenzic CAM Creator. We decided it would be interesting to find out what other CAM Creators did… and that proved to be a very fortunate decision. It began a series of popular long-form interviews which continues to this day. Significantly, it really broadened our content, from ‘cars, cars, cars’ to CAM.

The very first of these CAM Creator interviews was with Clem Robertson of R4dar, now part of Angoka: “Fighter pilots use five different methods of identification before engaging a potential bogey, and the autonomous vehicle world is doing similar with lidar, radar, digital mapping etc. Each has its shortcomings but together they create a more resilient system.”

Millbrook test-bed
Millbrook test-bed

2021 As the pandemic continued to dominate, we signed multiple media partnership agreements, notably with Reuters Events. These saw me moderating high profile panel discussions on everything from ADAS to clean fuel and, of course, self-driving.

At a Small Cells Forum virtual event, we met Peter Stoker, Chief Engineer at Millbrook Proving Ground, leading to this deep dive into both real-world and virtual testing: “The key to the future of self-driving is education, education, education – for everyone, the public, vehicle manufacturers, the aftermarket, recovery operators…”

Oxa's groundbreaking zero occupancy self-driving vehicle
Oxa’s groundbreaking zero occupancy self-driving vehicle

2022 The welcome return of face-to-face meetings and live events -press launches, trade shows and industry conferences. We renewed our deal with Reuters for Auto Tech and signed further similar agreements, including with London EV Show and MOVE. In April, we published our first newsletter – the top story was on project CAVForth.

Meanwhile, Cruise began charging for self-driving rides in San Francisco. Here, Oxbotica (soon to be Oxa) conducted the first zero-occupancy, self-driving, electric vehicle test on public roads in Europe: “An historic moment for the UK, the transport and logistics sector, and autonomous vehicle technology”, said CTO (soon to be CBE) Professor Paul Newman.

Self-driving Industry Awards 2023

2023 saw Cars of the Future website visitors, newsletter subscribers and social numbers almost double. We renewed our partnership with MOVE (which saw me host the AV stage), were invited to the Self-Driving All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and organised the inaugural Self-driving Industry Awards.

CAVForth won the headline Vehicle of the Year Award. Other big winners (nominated by their industry peers) included Alex Kendall of Wayve, Rebecca Posner of CCAV and Oxa’s Newman. It was the best day in the history of Cars of the Future to date.

As ever, our mission remains: To chart the development of, and encourage sensible debate about, all aspects of self-driving. We’ll soon be announcing details of the Self-driving Industry Awards 2024, and we’ve got other exciting new projects in the pipeline too. Watch this space!

Cars of the Future 2024
Cars of the Future 2024

A huge thank you for all your support and here’s to the next five years!

Report on the Self-Driving Vehicles APPG media briefing at Wayve in December 2023

Self-Driving Vehicles APPG holds London media briefing on AV Bill

The Self-Driving Vehicles All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) held a media briefing in London this week to provide an overview of the UK’s new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill.

Held at the London HQ of self-driving tech leader Wayve, the expert panel included Sarah Gates, Director of Public Policy at Wayve, Sarah Thomson, Public Affairs Manager at insurer AXA UK, and Brian Wong, partner and specialist in transport at law firm Burges Salmon.

Wayve self-driving testing in London
Wayve self-driving testing in London

Pleasingly, media in attendance included representatives from not only the usual automotive, fleet and insurance titles, but also national press. Such wider engagement can only help in terms of educating the public, with the unfortunate side-effect of reducing the gaiety resulting from hyperbolic headlines.

Self-driving explainer

Following a basic explainer on how the AV Bill will create a new safety and liability framework for the commercial deployment of self-driving vehicles, they ran through essential terminology including Authorised Self-Driving Entity (ASDE), Operational Design Domain (ODD), User-In-Charge (UiC), No-User-in-Charge (NUiC) and the SAE Levels.

The two statistics that seemed to capture most attention were:

  • In 2022, road traffic accidents cost the UK economy £43bn, of which £2.3bn was a direct cost to the NHS in medical treatment and ambulance services.
  • The DfT estimates that 85% of road traffic accidents are caused by human error incl. reckless behaviour, disobeying traffic laws, and driver impairment/distraction.

Self-driving discussion

Addressing the concern that drivers are actively resisting assisted driving solutions, AXA has published new research confirming that “41% of drivers are switching off vital safety features because they find them annoying”. This, of course, is not self-driving. As we’ve covered before, it is why some experts believe it would be safer to move straight to Level4.

Andy Keane, AXA UK Technical Head of Commercial Motor, said: “The Bill creates new government entities that will assume liability for regulating automated vehicles. Drivers will have immunity from criminal liability for how a vehicle drives while automated vehicle features are engaged.

“However, the fundamental principle of insurance for vehicles will remain unchanged. Every vehicle on our roads will still need to be insured by either the owner/registered keeper or the NUIC operator, such as someone running a fleet of self-driving vehicles. 

“As this technology evolves, we expect a standard motor insurance policy to form the basis of insurance for self-driving vehicles, with adaptations made to accommodate the new technology.”

Further points of discussion included the AV legislation serving as a blueprint for the sector-specific regulation of AI-based technologies, the role of self-driving in cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the opportunity for the UK to provide global leadership on AV regulatory frameworks.

For further details on the economic, environmental and safety benefits, please see the recent Self-Driving Vehicles APPG report

Survey reveals consumer self-driving concerns amidst GPS spoofing threat

Focal Point aims to boost self-driving trust by thwarting GPS spoofing

According to a new survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) specialist Focal Point Positioning, 48.9% of consumers still believe self-driving cars will make our roads more dangerous.

Key concerns, the Cambridge-based company found, relate to the reliability of the technology, liability for accidents, vulnerability to cyberattack, and potential subscription costs. Of particular interest to Focal Point was the threat of GPS spoofing, which it says is on the rise.

Self-driving safety threat

Spoofing is a form of cyberattack that targets positioning systems such as GPS, with spoofers broadcasting fake signals to confuse the GNSS receiver, potentially interfering with vehicle navigation, ADAS and automated driving systems.

Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point, has over 20 years’ experience in the GNSS industry, having previously worked for semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom.

Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point
Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point

“Our S-GNSS Auto solution is a software upgrade to the existing GNSS sensor in the car,” he said. “GNSS sensors are a marvel of engineering, able to compute an absolute position – latitude, longitude and altitude – anywhere in the world. However, they can suffer from accuracy problems in urban environments due to all the reflections off buildings, and they can also be subjected to RF cyberattacks, known as spoofing.

“Spoofers send malicious signals pretending to be the satellite signals, which can expose the naive design of some GNSS sensors. To combat this, our S-GNSS Auto software can run in the GNSS chips of any of the major chipmakers in the automotive industry, to generate a ‘trust zone’ around the GPS sensor.

“It can also be useful in improving the performance of suboptimal antennas, which vehicle manufacturers sometimes use because they are easier to conceal and don’t interfere so much with the design, for instance, those embedded in windscreens.

“We already have strategic investment from General Motors and are in discussion with manufacturers in Europe and the US.”

The full survey report is available via focalpointpositioning.com

Shift to clean fuel now! WWF film by Yannis Konstantinidis sends clear message about climate crisis.

COP28 special: WWF urges shift to clean fuel now

Against the backdrop of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), and with our 2023 MOVE pledge in mind, we recommend reflecting on this haunting new video from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):

Shift to clean fuel now

Despite what event president Sultan Al Jaber (also chief exec of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company!) might think, the hugely respected WWF emphasises that oil, coal and gas use is a “main driver” of climate change.

To help people and nature, it therefore urges COP28 leaders to agree on a plan to phase out fossil fuels and move towards more efficient, sustainable, renewable energy “now”.

Clearly this doesn’t sit comfortably with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushing the deadline for new petrol and diesel car sales back to 2035. Amidst some support for this controversial move (mainly on cost grounds), but plenty of vocal criticism, we look at three leading clean fuel contenders: batteries, biofuels and hydrogen.

Battery electric

First up, the champion elect: battery electric vehicles (BEVs). With roots dating back to Robert Davidson’s 1830s electric locomotive, BEVs use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery connected to at least one electric motor.

In September, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported the 41st consecutive month of BEV sales increases, and an impressive 18.9% year-on-year uplift. Bestsellers include Tesla’s Y and 3, Kia’s e-Niro, VW’s ID.3 and Nissan’s Leaf.

Leaving aside the question of who’s to blame for the lack of infrastructure, the UK government has committed £1.6bn to the mission, equating to 300,000 new public chargers by 2030. According to charging map provider Zap Map, there are currently 50,000 points across the UK, up 43% in just 12 months.

Serious advances are being made on recharging times too, with BP claiming its new Pulse 150kw charger can deliver up to 100-miles-worth of juice in around 15 minutes.

The range anxiety argument is fading as ever more models deliver 300+ miles on a full charge, and amazing battery advancements are being announced almost daily. For instance, Mahle recently claimed a ‘leap forward’ in cooling plate technology: 10% better cooling performance and 20% less pressure loss, all while saving 15% on materials.

This all sounds so positive, why isn’t everyone switching? Well, purchase price is still an issue. The RAC provides the example of MG Motor UK’s ZS Hatchback, with the electric version £8k more than its petrol equivalent, even with the plug-in grant. Attractive finance options help to soften this blow.

The picture gets even rosier when you look at running costs. Research by Compare the Market found an average saving of £600 per annum for EVs over petrol cars, taking into account insurance, fuel and road tax. Some suggest that fewer mechanical parts lead to lower service, maintenance and repair bills too.

Perhaps the last serious obstacle is the long waiting lists, with semiconductor supply chain problems making global headlines.


As with rechargeable batteries, experimentation with biofuels began in the mid-nineteenth century, using methanol or ethanol with potassium/sodium hydroxide as the catalyst. Their biggest selling point is that they are derived from renewable sources.

Millions of UK motorists use biofuels every day, whether they realise it or not. E10 unleaded petrol contains up to 10% bioethanol and B7 diesel up to 7% biodiesel. The bioethanol is made by fermenting crops such as corn and maize, while the biodiesel comes from vegetable oils combined with alcohol.

Their main drawback is that they still produce emissions when burned. The RAC also warned of E10 issues for up to 600,000 older vehicle owners. Although most would run E5, doubling the amount of ethanol caused a whole variety of issues in classics – from troublesome condensation in fuel lines to perished rubber hoses and seals.

The technology is improving though. One of the ‘second-generation’ biofuels, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), can be used in many standard diesel engines, and is endorsed by the likes of Caterpillar, Scania and Volvo.

What’s more, bespoke fuel specialist Coryton recently launched the Sustain Classic range, which it says is “The UK’s first publicly available sustainable petrol”. It includes three grades: Super 80, with at least 80% renewable content; Super 33, with at least a third renewable; and Racing 50, with at least 50% renewable.

David Richardson, business development director at Coryton, said: “We’re setting truthful and realistic goals, producing fuels that have a meaningful impact while meeting the demands of the user.”

At the very least, biofuels can be an effective bridging technology, with the US Renewable Fuels Association backing wider adoption in both road transport and aviation.


Finally, we come to that long-touted rival to BEV, hydrogen. This has the longest history of all, with Swiss inventor François Isaac de Rivaz patenting a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine in 1807.

Again, such vehicles are already on our roads, albeit in small numbers. Toyota makes great play of the fact that its hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (HFCEV) Mirai emits only water vapour.

“We’re fully committed to fuel cell, particularly for larger vehicles, because of the advantages in terms of range and refuelling time, but we’re also pursuing hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen combustion, keeping all options open,” explained Katherine Chamberlain, senior manager for new product development at Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK.

In March, JCB unveiled a new hydrogen combustion engine designed specifically for heavy construction and agricultural equipment. Despite investing in battery electric for its smaller vehicles, the Staffordshire-based manufacturer needed a different solution for large machines working long shifts with little available downtime for recharging.

JCB Chairman, Anthony Bamford, said: “The unique combustion properties of hydrogen enable the hydrogen engine to deliver the same power, torque and efficiency that powers JCB machines today, but in a zero-carbon way.

“Hydrogen combustion engines also offer other significant benefits. By leveraging diesel engine technology and components, they do not require rare earth elements and, critically, combustion technology is already well proven.”

A major issue is that well over 90% of all hydrogen produced globally comes from natural gas, coal and oil. However, huge sums are being invested in industrial electrolysis – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – to overcome this thorny hurdle.

Clean fuel choices

Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe’s leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport, has produced a handy chart detailing why direct electrification is “by far” the best technology.

T&E chart on future car clean fuel choices
T&E chart on future car clean fuel choices

The headline figures on the drive towards 100% renewable fuel production by 2050 are stark: 94% for direct electrification, 68% for hydrogen and only 55% for power-to-liquid (petrol and diesel). Pure electric is also the clear winner in terms of the amount of original energy required, up to five times more efficient than power-to-liquid alternatives.

Matt Finch, UK Policy Manager at T&E, said: “By 2050, the vast majority of cars around the world, certainly in the UK, will be 100% battery electric. There are a few good reasons for this. The first is blindingly obvious: the grid infrastructure exists and every household has an electricity supply. It might be slow, and we advise people to use proper chargers, but technically you can already charge an electric car from billions of points around the UK.

“Using electricity is dirt cheap compared to burning oil, biofuel or hydrogen. That’s the main reason everyone will switch, apart from a few classic cars running on efuel. EVs are also quieter, smoother and generally nicer to drive. 

“Biofuels are useful, although we massively over-rely on Malaysia and China for our feedstocks. What happens if they decide to refine it themselves to meet their own climate change targets? There’s an additional UK problem in that we still put millions of litres of palm-derived biodiesel into our cars. In the current round of policymaking for sustainable aviation fuel, palm is explicitly banned for environmental reasons, yet the Department for Transport still allows its use for road vehicles. That’s plain stupid.

“The fuelling question gets more interesting when you look at HGVs, but my personal take is that they will also all be battery electric. Batteries have been getting better for years and solid state is coming very soon. During the 2030s, HGVs with solid state batteries and decent ranges will arrive en masse. Then all the compelling car arguments come back in – smoother drive and far cheaper to run.

“I doubt we will ever have hydrogen trucks in the UK. There’s potentially a tiny tail of use cases, but then why should HGVs get this scarce resource ahead of aviation, shipping or the chemical industry? For various reasons, environmentally or societally, it’s hard to make a case. When you consider all the processes required to use hydrogen fuel cells, ultimately to power an electric motor, you end up asking: why bother when we can just use electricity?

“Virtually every major OEM has now stopped R&D on combustion vehicles in favour of battery vehicles. Some are funding their own battery development, some are buying them from the likes of Panasonic, but they’re all investing millions. There are tens of thousands of people in universities and manufacturing facilities around the world working on battery chemistries. That simply isn’t happening with combustion vehicles. The aviation industry is keeping a close eye on what’s happening in automotive, and it’s all focused on direct electrification.”

Belfast-based self-driving cybersecurity specialist Angoka has developed an award-winning hardware solution.

Angoka Wins 2023 Trust Award For Self-driving Cybersecurity

Connected car cybersecurity has been one of the hottest automotive topics for a decade now, with increasingly frequent and sophisticated attacks met by ever more advanced defences – and it is pivotal to trust in self-driving too.

The issue went mainstream in 2015 when tech website Wired released footage of hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek remotely seizing control of a Jeep containing journalist Andy Greenberg. “Seriously, it’s f*cking dangerous,” he protested as they shut off the engine while he was driving at 70mph.

Although the number of connected cars was still relatively small, the industry was worried. In 2018, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) found that 84% of automotive professionals had concerns that cybersecurity was failing to keep pace with evolving technologies.

The International Organization for Standardization rules on vehicle cybersecurity engineering were still under development, and the ‘prevention, detection and mitigation’ mantra was getting a lot of attention.

Increasing cyber threats

Fast forward to 2023 and the challenge has escalated. According to data analytics provider Upstream, the number of automotive and smart mobility app-related incidents increased by a staggering 380% in 2022, with ‘black-hat actors’ – the bad guys – behind 63% of them.

The top three attack vectors were: telematics and application servers (35% of all attacks); remote keyless entry systems (18%); and electronic control units (14%). The main threats, therefore, are safety compromise and theft, either of the car itself or, more likely, data.

Statista predicts that the global connected car market will be worth US$121bn by 2025, by which time there will be over 400m connected cars worldwide, up from 237m in 2021.

From a UK perspective, this represents a huge commercial opportunity. Several of our universities consistently rank among the top 10 in the world for cybersecurity courses, sparking a plethora of exciting start-ups.

A leading light amongst them is Belfast-based Angoka, with its hardware solution to what is generally considered a software problem. In layman’s terms, it creates unique identities to enable trusted data exchange. Established in 2019, it graduated from the National Cyber Security Centre’s prestigious Accelerator programme, and now employs 45 people.

Self-driving expert: Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka
Self-driving expert: Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka

Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka, said: “My first car was an Austin A35. I’m not sure I locked it much and the term cyber didn’t exist. Today, my plug-in hybrid tells me when it needs servicing, it’s always locked, and the risk of a software fault disabling the vehicle has increased exponentially.

“Level4 automation is around the corner and billions are being spent by companies aiming to be part of the value chain. Some are spinouts from academia, others have been created within the exascale computing companies, and more within the automotive sector itself.

“While significant investment has gone into safety cases, nowhere near enough has been invested in understanding and protecting against the risks associated with cyberattack.

“The digitisation of the vehicle, drive-by-wire, electronic control systems, and the systems that manage transport at scale are all vulnerable, as are over-the-air (OTA) updates and even the EV charging infrastructure.

“Numerous attacks have taken place, or been demonstrated, setting alarm bells ringing throughout the industry. So much so that standards are being mandated, with companies trying to retrofit what should have been built-in from the start.

“One approach is a fortress mentality – encrypt everything, regardless of need. But this doesn’t work in the complex world of connected and automated mobility (CAM). There are too many cracks for bad actors to gain entry.

“With the hundreds of devices that make up a modern vehicle – sensors, actuators, controllers, infotainment – coupled with the range of connectivity options needed to transmit, receive and share data, a new model is needed.

“Our solution is built from the ground up, secure by design. It starts at an electronic component or subsystem level, so that each device has an immutable identity. It can then safely exchange data with other trusted devices, with encryption applied when needed. It gives us a real opportunity to get ahead of the hackers.”

Self-driving trust award

They call it safeguarding critical machine-to-machine communications, and it could be a gamechanger, hence Angoka’s victory at the recent Self-driving Industry Awards.

Angoka co-founder Daniela Menzky wins at the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023
Angoka co-founder Daniela Menzky wins at the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023

The #sdia23 judges said: “In the Trust category, we were looking for examples of exceptional service promoting public acceptance. This was the most challenging category to judge, with strong claims by an array of very different entrants. In the end, we decided that the ultimate facilitator of trust is effective cyber-security.

“We were delighted, therefore, to present our inaugural Self-driving Industry Trust Award to Angoka. Their hardware-based approach to assuring machine-to-machine communications starts at an electronic component or subsystem level. Giving each device a unique digital fingerprint enables it to safely exchange data with other trusted devices, making life much more difficult for hackers.”

Please note: a version of this article was first published in the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

UK fleet management specialist Venson has published a free white paper on self-driving…

Venson: Fleet operators will be in the vanguard of safe self-driving

UK fleet management specialist, Venson Automotive Solutions, has published a new white paper, The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation, to help businesses keep track of the latest developments in self-driving.

With multiple new technologies now very close to being market-ready, and the legislative framework taking shape, Venson is urging fleet managers to future-proof the sector for self-driving, just as they are doing with electric vehicles (EVs).

An important part of this is recognising that, along with the promise of an improved environment for vulnerable road users, decreased traffic volumes, improved safety and more shared mobility, there will be new duties and obligations for those with responsibility for mobility within organisations.

For example, safe self-driving rollout will require fleet managers to embrace the new concepts devised by the Law Commissions, such as the Authorised Self-Driving Entity (ASDE) – the manufacturer or developer that puts the vehicle forward for authorisation and takes responsibility for its actions – and the No User-in-Charge (NUIC).

To obtain a NUIC operator licence, the fleet managers of passenger service and freight companies will need to meet certain requirements, including being ‘of good repute’ and having ‘appropriate financial standing’.

The C in connected and automated mobility (CAM) will also bring many benefits, not least the massive safety gains facilitated by having real-time warnings about potential hazards.

When it comes to insurance, again, it will be imperative for both fleet managers and drivers to have a full and clear understanding of the vehicle’s limitations.

UK self-driving case studies feature in new Venson white paper
UK self-driving case studies feature in new Venson white paper

Self-driving fleet comment

Simon Staton, Client Management Director at Venson, said: “CAM will have a significant impact on fleet managers and only by horizon-scanning, adapting and developing the fleet management role will UK businesses and vulnerable road users be able to benefit from it.

“Just as the fleet industry is taking the reins and steering electrification in the UK, the importance of the fleet manager cannot be understated as we journey towards full driving automation.

“As fleets juggle lagging service, maintenance and repair (SMR), and elastic lead times on new vehicles, CAM may seem too far into the future. However, driving learning and continuous professional development (CPD) on CAM is fundamentally important to our ability to steer development of the fleet function.

“Whether it is keeping tabs on UK self-driving regulation, the impact of CAM on the Highway Code, or how connectivity, already enabling remote diagnostics, will empower prognostics – the ability to fix things before they go wrong – it is up to us as a sector to keep one step ahead.

“There has been much talk about the dawn of fully autonomous vehicles. However, many of the vehicles we drive today already encompass much of this technology.

“Safe self-driving will change the world for the better and fleet operators will be in the vanguard, taking on vital new responsibilities and reaping the commercial benefits.”

Self-driving white paper

The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation features many names familiar to Cars of the Future readers, including Beam Connectivity, BSI, CCAV, Reed Mobility, Thatcham and Zenzic.

Zenzic is profiled in Venson's The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation white paper
Zenzic is profiled in Venson’s The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation white paper

It profiles the Oxa zero-occupancy trial, the CAVForth project in Scotland (winner of the Vehicle of the Year Award at the recent Self-driving Industry Awards), Milton Park, Wayve and Imperium Drive, along with expert comments by Malcolm Wilkinson, of National Highways, and Steve Gooding, of the RAC Foundation, among many others.

It also highlights the 2023 Communications Toolkit, developed by the Automated Vehicle Driver Responsibility in Vehicle Education group (AV- DRIVE), featuring important inputs by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The full Venson white paper, The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation, is free and available for download from venson.com