Green Light for FiveAI Autonomous Car Testing in London
FiveAI, a UK based company, has been given the green light to deploy data-gathering cars on London’s streets to pave the way for a potential driverless car service. FiveAI announced its first on-street trial: a service aimed at commuters in the London outer boroughs of Bromley and Croydon.
FiveAI is based in London, Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Edinburgh and Millbrook. They are building a fully self-driving system that can operate safely without the need for a human driver. Right now, current UK legal requirements mean that all FiveAI vehicles are supervised by a human safety driver.
FiveAI will deploy five cars (with drivers on board) over the next 10 months to collect data on roads, including layout, topology and traffic flow and road user behaviour too. The data collected will be processed in line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and used for developing FiveAI’s planned services. FiveAI declared that all its data collection vehicles will be clearly branded and will feature an “obvious array” of sensors to ensure transparency.
The company is working on developing a shared service aimed at commuters who drive to work every day. FiveAI hopes to run a supervised trial of autonomous vehicles in London in 2019.
According FiveAI co-founder Ben Peters, the company has been testing its technology, at the automotive testing centre Milbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire and the soon to begin new trial will be the first on-street effort from the UK start-up. Ben Peters says that autonomous vehicles will be much safer than human-driven cars and the data-gathering exercise is a crucial stage towards getting them onto the roads.
— Matthew Gardiner (@matwg) July 19, 2018
“By supporting London’s transport objectives with a shared driverless car service, FiveAI can play a crucial role in reducing congestion, emissions, incidents and the cost and time of journeys to benefit all Londoners,” he said. Peters revealed that FiveAI is eschewing Central London and opting instead to focus on the boroughs of Bromley and Croydon for a couple of reasons.
One being that the area affords the start-up some “friendly users.” Another is the opportunity to fill a gap that has been ignored by others. The centre of London is very congested, but there are already a number of transportation alternatives attempting to address that issue. “There are a lot of problems to solve there, but they are very well served by current providers,” said Peters. “But in Zones 4 to 6 -the outer boroughs of London, about one quarter of people are still driving their own vehicles to and from work.” This is definitely an opportunity for a shared mobility service.
$35 million FiveAI has raised is considered the highest funding for an autonomous car company in Europe till date but it is a modest figure compared with start-ups in the US and China. Transportation across Europe is estimated to be a $400 billion market, Peters estimates that approximately $100 million has been raised by autonomous driving startups in the region. But there is clear opportunity given Europe’s high urban density. Transportation providers like Uber, and car makers and tech giants like Google plan to access the opportunities in a big way.
Peters confirmed that FiveAI aims to raise further funds for expansion plan to more cities across Europe and related trials.
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