Monday 11, April 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), a leading transport consultancy and research firm, has predicted that the emergence of autonomous vehicle technology will revolutionize the GCC region’s transport sector. The firm pointed out that there is a continuing global growth in the autonomous vehicles market, which is reflected in the growing number of manufacturers exploring the technology. In line with this, TRL has urged that the region needs to be prepared in terms of road infrastructure, legal framework and regulations that can accommodate and support autonomous vehicles.

According to the company’s senior executives, despite the skyrocketing number of manufacturers, no self-driving cars have been made available to the public. However, industry analysts have expressed confidence that by the year 2020, self-driving cars would then be publicly available. As such, authorities in the region have already started to study the development of this new technology. The move represents the region’s preparation for autonomous vehicle technology — which also includes the development of road infrastructure and encouraging manufacturers to create the appropriate environment for the introduction of driverless vehicles.

“The growing popularity of autonomous vehicle technology, combined with its potential as a safer and more secure means of transport, suggests that this new technology will eventually revolutionize the region’s transport segment,” said Akin Adamson, TRL’s Middle East Director. “TRL has over 50 years of experience in vehicle automation. So, it is well positioned to aid policymakers, government authorities and customers in this process by developing a program of activities, legal framework and regulations that can accommodate and support autonomous vehicles.”

One of the company’s latest endeavors is the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) project, an £8 million (AED 44 million) project funded by Innovate UK and Industry. TRL is leading the project which will investigate public perception, reaction and engagement with a range of different types of automated vehicles. As part of the project, three British companies are working in collaboration to develop new iconic automated pods for public trials this summer. Using entirely British engineering and software capabilities, Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica will develop pods capable of operating fully autonomously and safely on the streets of London in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The three companies, all of which recently joined the GATEway project as consortium members, will be working together to develop the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at the UK’s Heathrow Airport. Operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, these pods have already carried 1.5m passengers and completed 3m kilometres of fully automated operation. Led by Westfield Sportcars, these pods will now be adapted to navigate the streets of Greenwich without the need for dedicated tracks.

The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, will investigate public acceptance of automated shuttle vehicles within the urban mobility landscape. Other trials set to take place in the project include autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries.

“Last year, Dubai announced that the latest technologies in the field of smart mobility solutions will be considered for use in Expo 2020. Further the announcement highlighted, the emirate is now pioneering efforts in the region to be the first to map out a strategy and plan on how to utilize autonomous vehicle (driverless car) technology on to the emirate’s road networks. The GATEway project is an exciting leap forward for the UK and TRL is very honoured to be leading this UK consortium and is also well positioned in bringing such initiatives and best practices to the GCC region,” concluded George Zakhem, Programme Manager, TRL – UAE.

TRL has a growing portfolio of innovative research projects in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles. Notable projects include MOVE_UK, Atlas, Sentience, the testing of partial automation on UK roads; ADAPTATION, simulator research into behaviour of “non-equipped” drivers when driving in mixed and automated traffic; Heavy Vehicle Platooning Study for the Department of Transport and a £11m research programme to develop fully autonomous cars jointly funded by Jaguar Land Rover and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at some key technologies and questions that need to be addressed before driverless cars can be allowed on the roads without jeopardizing the safety of other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Other projects include research into the business case for automated vehicles, implications for highways authorities and cybersecurity of automated vehicles.