Self-driving car makes public debut following EPSRC support

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Photo of self-driving car on test

The LUTZ Pathfinder self-driving car during the trial in Milton Keynes

There was significant media interest as a self-driving car was trialled in public for the first time in the UK.

The Selenium autonomy software that allows the vehicle to navigate its way around the environment was developed at the Oxford Robotics Institute at Oxford University following support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Instead of utilising GPS, the vehicles build up knowledge of an area through Selenium, which uses data captured by cameras on the car and Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) laser measurement devices.

The software, which was incorporated into the electric vehicle by spinout company Oxbotica, has many potential applications with its capacity to build 3D models of its surroundings.

Media including the BBC, ITV and Sky filmed the car as it made its way around a 1km-long route in trials organised in Milton Keynes by the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), which concluded the 18-month LUTZ Pathfinder project.

Speaking about EPSRC's role in the development of the driverless car, Professor Paul Newman, BP Professor of Information Engineering in Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science, co-founder of Oxbotica and EPSRC Leadership Fellow, said: The Leadership Fellowship allowed me to accrete some superb people around me, to bring [Associate Professor in Information Engineering] Ingmar Posner into the group and we started to grow.

Because of that Leadership Fellowship I was able to start to work in a really healthy way with industry.

EPSRC has really got behind me in the strategic thinking about what it takes to run a robotics group and it's not just the research assistants and associates which are really important, but you also need to have professional engineers there as well, people who provide professionalism in terms of the software design and the hardware, and I'm blessed with an extraordinary team of people at ORI who really do help us do that.

Notes to Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Reference: PN 56-16

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