Self-driving cars trials launch on Oxford roads © PA News

Self-driving car trial launched on Oxford roads

The Government-backed Project Endeavour will run until autumn 2021.

Six autonomous cars are travelling on a nine-mile route between the city’s main railway station and Oxford Parkway station.

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They are fitted with Level 4 autonomous technology, meaning they are capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions. But a driver who can take over the controls will sit in the vehicles during the tests.

The Government-backed Project Endeavour is being led by Oxford-based firm Oxbotica.

It will be expanded next year to include Greenwich in south-east London and a third, unconfirmed city.

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“Project Endeavour is the UK’s first multi-city autonomous vehicle demonstration. It aims to create a flexible, scalable model that will make the wide-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles quicker, easier, and more efficient – whilst maintaining the highest safety standards,” said Oxbotica senior vice president of external affairs Graeme Smith.

“This project is about far more than just technology, it is about helping our cities and local authorities prepare for autonomy and to begin thinking about how to deploy it in such a way that helps urban planning and reduces congestion.

“The UK’s towns and cities differ greatly, each with their own quirks, from varying road design to urban planning.

“That’s why we’re running trials in three major UK cities, so that we can design autonomous vehicle services that address all the complexities of urban life – and be scalable to diverse locations across the UK and further afield.”

Project Endeavour will run until autumn 2021.

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In August, the Department for Transport announced a consultation on proposals to make hands-free driving legal on UK roads.

Reader Q&A: Would is be possible for a driverless car to use echolocation?

Asked by: Rhys Abul, Southampton

Sending out sound waves and listening for their echo is a great way to detect obstacles in water – submarines can detect objects many kilometres away. But sound doesn’t travel nearly so well in air. Bats can only detect objects up to 20 metres away, falling to around two metres in poor conditions. Light is less affected by atmospheric conditions, which is why self-driving cars use LIDAR (‘light detection and ranging’), bouncing infrared laser light off objects in order to detect them.

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