A new “route 66” is being established in the U.K. to create a real-world test highway for connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) is one of the companies investing in the 66-km-long (41-mi) road corridor in the British Midlands.
Latest generation communications equipment will be installed on the route, which is the first of its kind in the U.K. Research will include beyond visual range (BVR) situation monitoring systems.
Dr. Wolfgang Epple, JLR’s R&D Director, said the facility would provide testing on five types of roads and associated junctions: “The connected and autonomous vehicle features we will be testing will improve road safety, enhance the driving experience, reduce the potential for traffic jams, and improve traffic flow.”
JLR engineers said four main connectivity technologies will be tested: 4-G based LTE (Long Term Evolution); DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications); LTE-V (more advanced LTE), and local Wi-Fi hotspots. The JLR teams will also be testing “over the horizon” warning systems in real-world conditions, helping autonomous vehicles respond to changing conditions well in advance of any hazard.
The 66-km “living laboratory” is a three-year project by U.K.-CITE (Connected Intelligent Transport Environment), a government-industry consortium for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) research. U.K.-CITE members include Visteon, Siemens, Coventry City Council, WMG-University of Warwick, Horiba MIRA, Coventry University and Vodafone, along with JLR.
Up to 100 connected and highly automated cars are expected to be tested on the route. At present JLR plans to use five vehicles.
"A well informed driver is a safer driver," Dr. Epple noted, "while an autonomous vehicle will need to receive information about the driving environment ahead.” He said it could then take direct action, and drivers would receive a visual and audible warning that another car is causing a hazard out of sight or over the horizon.
V2V communication could also incorporate warnings from approaching emergency vehicles, allowing a driver to be aware of nearby, possibly high speed, police, fire or medical response units, well ahead of visual or aural warning signals from lights or sirens being detected.
Alternatives to out-of-vehicle warning systems will be a significant element of the connected testing. Warning messages currently displayed on overhead gantries could be sent directly to an onboard screen.
As autonomous driving technology gains credibility, the U.K. government recently announced that eight new projects have been awarded £20 million funding to research and develop enhanced communication between vehicles and roadside infrastructure or urban information systems, including new “talking car technologies.”
The projects are the first to be funded from the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund.