Self-driving vehicle trialled in UK public space for the first time | University of Oxford
Self-driving pod
Autonomous vehicle technology, as showcased in Milton Keynes last month, is one of Oxford's strengths in research and innovation.

Image credit: Transport Systems Catapult

Self-driving vehicle trialled in UK public space for the first time

A self-driving vehicle equipped with Oxford-developed autonomy software has been tested successfully in public for the first time in the UK. 

The demonstration in Milton Keynes was coordinated by the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and marked the conclusion of the LUTZ Pathfinder project, which has been running for the past 18 months.

The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, originated in Oxford University's Oxford Robotics Institute with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment.

Selenium is being commercialised and was integrated on to an electric vehicle by Oxford University spinout company Oxbotica.

The vehicle demonstration took place on pavements around Milton Keynes train station and business district. In the future, it is expected that vehicles like the one demonstrated in Milton Keynes will be used for local transportation in urban areas.

Professor Paul Newman, BP Professor of Information Engineering in Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science and co-founder of Oxbotica, said: 'It's great to see our research ideas having a life of their own beyond the lab and being used in public, for the public. Our work with the TSC has given us the opportunity to accelerate the development of our system into the public domain and has given us a platform from which we can now take our expertise on to the world stage.'

Graeme Smith, CEO at Oxbotica, said: 'The TSC's Lutz Pathfinder project is a great example of Oxbotica's autonomy software leading the way for self-driving vehicles here in the UK. This is a landmark step towards bringing self-driving vehicles to the streets of the UK and the world. Our unique Selenium software gives vehicles the next-generation level of intelligence to safely operate in pedestrianised urban environments.'

The project team has been running a number of exercises in preparation for the demonstration, including virtual mapping of Milton Keynes, assessing public acceptance, conducting the necessary safety planning, and establishing the regulatory environment with the support of Milton Keynes Council.

Neil Fulton, Programme Director at the TSC, said: 'This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts. Oxford University's technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world, and the LUTZ Pathfinder project will now feed into a much wider programme of autonomous trials across the UK. Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain, and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey.

'This team of UK-based scientists, mathematicians and engineers has worked incredibly hard to develop this groundbreaking technology, which is bringing self-driving vehicles yet another a step closer to deployment across the world.'