Self-driving cars could be coming by 2019

Vinnett Taylor, Head of IoT sales

The new Driven project could see fully autonomous cars in motorway trials from 2019 – and O2 is helping to make it happen.

How I commute today

I get up at 6.15, drive six miles to the train station where I have to pay to park, assuming I can find a space. The train’s on time – usually – but I rarely get a seat and have to stand all the way to Waterloo. Then I have a stress-packed few minutes to navigate the tube and prepare for my meeting. Most days, I barely have time to grab a cup of coffee on the way.

How my commute could look in the future

I’ll have an app on my mobile that calculates my journey, books and pays for any tickets and adjusts my travel requirements for traffic news or train delays. It learns about me and my preferences and summons an autonomous vehicle to arrive at just the right time to take me to the train station. Perhaps I’ll share that car with a few others making similar journeys, potentially reducing the number of cars needed on the roads. When I arrive at Waterloo, another autonomous vehicle will complete my journey, saving me time and money. And if traffic’s light, the car might even drive me all the way in.

It’s happening now

The research to make this a reality is happening now with the Driven project, a consortium of British tech companies, supported by £8.6m in funding from the Government’s Innovate UK initiative, that aims to test fully autonomous cars on British motorways in the next couple of years. Level 4 autonomous cars will drive themselves, but there’ll still be the option for a real-life driver to take control if needs be.

What is O2’s role?

O2 will send data from a broad range of sensors from the vehicles to the cloud, to and from traffic control systems and from vehicle to vehicle. It’s a huge endeavour, though we’ve already got experience in this area from our involvement in the successful GATEway automated vehicle research project around The O2 in Greenwich.  Data security will be paramount, this will include the safe transmission and delivery of real-time fleet management and insurance data, plus developing ‘safe by design’ cyber security standards that can be applied to platforms in partnership with other tech innovators.

If the project meets its targets, it may not be long before autonomous vehicles become a reality on our roads. My commute could be shorter, cheaper and less stressful. I might even have time for a coffee in the morning.