Later on, as the 2030 end goal approaches, Zenzic plans for CAM services to become “more attractive than traditional services”, to which end Bestmile UK will offer up its ‘fleet orchestration’ logistics platform to mobility companies as a means of reducing delays and determining a vehicle’s optimum route. The Transport Technology Forum, meanwhile, will investigate how best to repurpose road signage as it becomes less useful. It’s all part of a reciprocatory sector development model that will see smaller firms benefit from autonomous technology development more tangibly than is possible for the cash-conscious manufacturers.
Three years ago, the Volkswagen Group pledged that the bulk of a hugely significant £30 billion investment in future developments would go towards autonomous tech, and a year before that the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance pledged to launch a range of autonomy-capable vehicles and a ‘robo-taxi’ by 2022. But an enhanced – and enforced – focus on cleaner engines and EV powertrains in the years since, driven by tightening emissions legislation, means self-driving technology has become less of a priority for big brands than it was back then.
Now the Volkswagen Group’s autonomous technology development, along with that of Ford, has been largely outsourced to American tech firm Argo AI, while Google subdivision Waymo has been charged with conducting autonomous technology trials for Renault and Nissan.
It’s clear that collaboration is crucial at all levels, especially when the rolling out of any autonomous technology must be carried out according to universally applied regulations, using publicly accessible infrastructure and in harmony with the systems of rival manufacturers.
Obviously, a start-up that has yet to bring a product to market is put at an economic disadvantage compared with the likes of Argo AI and Waymo, but funding from the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK seeks to level the playing field.
Dr Richard Fairchild, chief product officer at Aurrigo, suggested that, in this respect, competition between UK tech firms could be a prerequisite for success. “We’re all in this game together, and access to that funding will enable us to compete with each other but also to compete strongly as a UK industry against that onslaught of competition from France, Israel and the US.”
UK gears up for autonomy