May 20, 2022
U.K. company Oxbotica has successfully completed Europe’s first trial of a fully autonomous vehicle with no occupants on public roads.
The test took place in Oxbotica’s home city of Oxford and featured a new electric vehicle prototype, the AppliedEV – essentially a platform that previews future vehicles for the transportation sector – fitted with the firm’s Oxbotica Driver tech.
Oxbotica Driver uses a combination of radar vision and laser-based sensors to give the vehicle an understanding of its surroundings, backed up by artificial intelligence.
The milestone was hailed as a “historic moment” by Oxbotica founder Paul Newman and follows two years of extensive testing by the firm as it developed its system architecture on and off road in the U.K., Europe and North America.
More significantly, it means another hurdle on the path to commercialization of the technology has been negotiated. According to Oxbotica, a deal with The Ocado Group means we could see goods delivery vehicles fitted with the company’s driverless tech in operation as early as next year.
Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at Ocado Technology confirmed this possibility.
“This is a fantastic milestone, and we are delighted to see Oxbotica making significant progress towards zero-occupancy goods deliveries,” he said. “We are excited about providing this transformational capability to Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) partners at the earliest possible opportunity.”
The breakthrough may also accelerate the commercial deployment of other vehicles using Oxbotica tech across the world.
The company is working with several partners, and only last week announced a deal with Swedish-based NEVS to integrate Oxbotica Driver into the latter’s Sango shuttle, which would operate as an on-demand mobility service in urban areas.
Currently, the plan is to have an initial fleet of Sangos running on specific geo-fenced public roads next year, before expanding to multiple locations in Europe in 2024. From 2025 on, the solution will be scaled across the globe.
The test also has implications for Britain’s insurance industry, with Oxbotica working alongside brokers and insurers to help create coverage that is tailored towards the risks associated with Level 4 autonomy on public roads.
Gavin Jackson, Oxbotica CEO, claimed the test would serve as a landmark moment for autonomous vehicles in Europe.
“This Europe-first trial leapfrogs us towards commercialization and the subsequent economic benefits available in this hyper-growth technology category,” he said. “Our zero-occupancy, all-electric, fully autonomous prototype is exactly the new-type vehicle that will form the mainstay of the transportation industry for decades to come.”
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