This week, a fleet of FiveAI cars hit the roads of London in a significant step towards the future of driverless cars in the capital and beyond. In line with the mayor of London’s comments this week on the need to tackle congestion and the corresponding pollution, the government are actively supporting the development of such technologies with the aim of realising fully self-driving and ride sharing vehicles. In an effort to lead a technological revolution in this area, the UK government set up a £35 million funding competition directed to exploring technical solutions for features of connected and autonomous vehicle that provide real-world benefits to users. As part of the competition, the StreetWise driverless car development consortium, led by FiveAI, was awarded nearly £13 million.
FiveAI have been putting this funding to use and now has vehicles roaming around the streets of London gathering sensor data on the road environment, traffic flow and the behaviour of road users including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. This will be particularly important as one of the issues facing fully self-driving vehicles in dense urban areas, such as London, is how to navigate safely without simply grinding to a halt due to the attitude of pedestrians to road crossing and right of way. Indeed, the VP of Prediction and Motion Planning at FiveAI, Dr. Subramanian Ramamoorthy, has said “when we succeed in London, we will be confident that we have a solution that can be made [to] work across the rest of Europe”. At this stage, the vehicles are being driven by highly trained drivers but the company expect to expand autonomous tests in early 2019 and start trialling the service with passengers in late 2019 / early 2020.
As part of FiveAI’s strategy, they have been filing a UK patent application approximately every month for the first half of this year with the applications being directed to various image segmentation and processing methods and the computation of collision probabilities for safe route planning. The content of these applications will likely remain unpublished for the next year and a half, but we would expect FiveAI to be testing and improving on these methods using the data they are now gathering on London’s streets with further advancements to be protected in further patent filings.
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This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.