- Visitors & Friends
- About the University
Creating cars that drive themselves
An engineering project at University of Oxford offers the possibility of autonomous personal transport, which could save people time, reduce emissions and makes roads safer.
James Baker, BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre
This is an exciting joint project between the University of Oxford and BAE Systems. It is great for us to be able to offer Wildcat as a test-bed for the University of Oxford and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming years.
It seems that in these times of climate change we are constantly being reminded that we should use cars less and embrace public transport. The reasoning seems sound: using the car is not only bad for the environment, it can be dangerous and a waste of productive time too.
But with over 30 million cars on the roads of the UK alone, any shift from current status quo looks set to be a slow one. The Mobile Robotics Group in Oxford agree. They think help lies in creating smarter vehicles that free up our time to work at the wheel, cut emissions by driving more sensibly than humans, and can spot and avoid hazards.
A new collaborative project looks set to make that a reality. Together with BAE Sytems, the Department for Transport, and Nissan Motor Company, the Mobile Robotics Group is developing technologies to enable robots to work and travel independently over long periods of time. The plan is to create truly autonomous transport systems: cars that can drive themselves and interact safely with other road users.
To do that requires a car packed with technology and clever computational clout to interpret information on the fly. The group are making use of a vehicle known as Wildcat: a modified fly-by-wire Land Rover that was given to the group by BAE as part of a collaboration which can follow pre-planned routes.
The Oxford Group have kitted out the vehicle with their own cameras, radars and lasers, and are using mathematical methods to allow the robotic car to interpret the data it captures. Using machine learning techniques, they will enable the robot to combine prior experience and knowledge with its current observations, and use the information to plan its movement.
The goal of the five-year, £1.4 million project is to develop a vehicle that always knows precisely where it is and what is around it. But in the long term, the team hope to see these kinds of intelligent cars on the market - creating safer, greener roads, and freeing up our time in the process.
Funded by: The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, BAE Systems.