Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber has deployed a fleet of mapping cars on the capital’s streets in a bid to create its own Google Street View – allowing drivers and users to find the best pick-up and drop-off points as well as the best routes to avoid congestion.

The controversial transportation firm has already been mapping US roads in a similar way to Apple and Tomtom, it says, and is now looking to map London’s streets – with other UK towns and cities to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Writing in a blog post, Uber’s Brian McClendon, formerly head of maps at Google, said: “Behind every successful Uber ride is a technology many of us take for granted: maps. Mobile maps and GPS allow us to match you with the closest available driver, navigate the fastest path to your destination, and give you an accurate ETA. Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.

“Existing maps are a good starting point,” McClendon explains. “But some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations. Moreover, we need to be able to provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren’t detailed maps — or street signs.”

The move could also help Uber’s fleet of driverless cars, which are already being trialled on public roads in Pennsylvania. A fleet of four autonomous Ford Fusions have been giving rides to customers with technicians on-hand to monitor the car’s behaviour and take over when required.

Experts have said that Uber’s ability to crunch huge amounts of data collected from the millions of miles covered by Uber drivers have helped put it ahead of carmakers in the race to launch the driverless car.

“Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started,” added McClendon. “That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars. I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can’t even imagine today.”

Uber is also working with Volvo to launch a new autonomous car based on the same SPA platform as the XC90 and S90.

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo’s partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced that it will work with ride-sharing company Uber as part of a $300 million project to bring driverless cars to the roads.

Volvo will produce a ‘base vehicle’ which it will sell to Uber. The tech transportation firm will then use it to trial its own autonomous technology – and Volvo will, at the same time, work on its own driverless systems.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson, said: “Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

The new base vehicle is expected to be a modified version of the premium XC90 SUV.

Volvo has previously revealed plans to test its autonomous cars on London’s roads in 2017 – while Uber is already trialling the technology in the States.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

The technology could lead to Uber users being able to summon driverless cars for lifts, without having to rely on drivers.

It comes after Ford announced it would launch a high-volume autonomous car by 2021.

JLR autonomous roadwork assist

Jaguar Land Rover to start UK real-world autonomous car trials

JLR autonomous roadwork assistJaguar Land Rover will this year begin public road trials of ‘driverless’ autonomous vehicles as part of a four-year real-world test.

The news means JLR will beat premium rival Volvo in commencing a public-road UK driverless car trial – the Swedish brand confirmed earlier this year it’s beginning an autonomous car test in London from 2017.

> More car news on Motoring Research

The first JLR research cars will drive on a 41-mile autonomous car test route around Coventry and Solihull, with a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles eventually taking to public roads.

The test route will include both motorways and urban roads, initially involving trials of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications tech that’s going to help make autonomous cars viable.

Future test vehicles will become progressively more autonomous, even allowing driverless operation through challenging sequences such as roadworks.

JLR will also develop more comprehensive connected car tech that it says will allow streams of traffic to talk with one another, improving traffic flow and safety.

But the firm famous for its engaging-to-drive cars isn’t planning to let the machines take over entirely, stresses head of research Tony Harper. Drivers are “able to choose how much support and assistance they need”.

They may, he says, pick full autonomy in boring motorway runs or stressful traffic, but still take over to enjoy twisty backroads – even though “the new technology we are creating will still be working in the background to help keep them safe”.

JLR autonomous innovations

JLR Roadwork Assist

Jaguar Land Rover engineers have today revealed some key technology innovations they’re working on, that they say will not only help make autonomous cars safer, they’ll also be safer and more reassuring to live with.

  • Roadwork Assist: a 3D camera uses image processing software to decipher the road ahead. It can plot a route through fiddly sequences of cones, helping centralise the vehicle safely through narrow sections
  • Safe Pullaway: if the driver goes to accelerate but the car ahead hasn’t moved, brakes are auto-applied. Good for roundabouts where the car behind goes for a gap the one in front does not…
  • Over the Horizon Warning: uses radio communications to alert drivers about incidents over the brow of a hill; a stopped car beams a ‘Hazard Ahead’ warning to nearby vehicles
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning: reduces the stress of hearing sirens but not seeing the emergency vehicle by telling drivers which direction the vehicle is coming from and how far away it is

“Our connected car and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents,” said Harper.

“Proving the right information at the right time will enable better and safer decision-making, whether the car is driven by a human or is autonomous.”

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