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Edinburgh scientists to help develop driverless vehicles

ByAmanda Ho

Oct 22, 2015

The University of Edinburgh is set to take part in a new £11 million national research programme aimed at developing fully autonomous vehicles. The venture will be jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Jaguar Land Rover.

Five projects have been selected and will be headed by Jaguar Land Rover, taking place across ten UK universities as well as the Transport Research Laboratory.

These projects will focus on the use of radar and video sensing to interpret the external environment, road conditions and road users. The purpose is to develop intelligent infrastructure to be integrated within vehicles, ideally leading to a cohesive autonomous system that works to great effect with human control.

The University of Edinburgh will work in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University and the University of Birmingham on the Pervasive low-TeraHz and Video Sensing for Car Autonomy and Driver Assistance project (PATH CAD), led by Dr Marina Gashinova of Birmingham.

The Institute for Digital Communications, one of six research institutes within the School of Engineering within the University of Edinburgh will be heavily involved in the research campaign.

“The Edinburgh focus will be on developing radar signal processing and imaging techniques, and ways to fuse together radar and video images, so that the car can ‘see’ its surroundings in all weather conditions,” Professor Bernard Mulgrew, the University of Edinburgh lead on the project, told The Student.

This is further complemented by a statement provided by Professor Andy Wallace of Heriot-Watt University to The Student, who will be working with Professor Mulgrew and Dr Gashinova.

“The key difference between us and all the other car projects is that we aim to function in bad weather, i.e. when the cameras and lasers fail to penetrate fog, snow, etc.” he said.

During a visit to Jaguar Land Rover’s facility in Gaydon in Warwickshire, Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid explained the purpose of these UK-wide research projects.

“The UK Government has no intention of being a passenger in innovation so is pioneering autonomous car technology in partnership with industry. This £11 million research and development programme and the winning projects are a perfect example of this and will help to keep us at the forefront of the robotics revolution.”

Dr Wolfgang Epple, the Director of Research and Technology of Jaguar Land Rover has also emphasized on the future potential of fully driverless vehicles, saying,

“We need to give drivers, pedestrians and other road users the confidence that a car driving around with little or no human input is a safe, viable and rewarding experience.

“These collaborative projects will bring some of the UK’s leading academics together with our autonomous driving team to address the fundamental real-world challenges that are part of our journey towards autonomous driving.”

In a press release statement by EPSRC, Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson stated, “Science and engineering research is vital to technological innovation and to keeping UK businesses at the forefront of global markets.”

“This joint investment shows how strategic partnerships between the research councils, universities and business can identify industry’s challenges and build the academic expertise needed to meet them. The universities and partners in these projects will take novel approaches to safely change the way we travel in the future.”

When asked about what long-term impacts these vehicles will have for the future of the UK, Professor Wallace referred to safety and fuel efficiency benefits.

“Think how existing automotive technology has saved lives, from the humble seat belt to automatic braking to driving attention monitoring to lane departure warnings,” he said.

The collective project involving the University of Edinburgh is planned to begin in December of this year and is scheduled to run until 2019.


Photo: Some attempts at the development of a truly autonomous, safe, and efficient car have already been made.

Photo Credit: Norbert Aepli

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