An autonomous Nissan Leaf electric vehicle has completed a complex 370km drive across the UK as part of a £13.5 million ($A26 million) project to make self-driving as human-friendly as possible.
Under the HumanDrive project, which is jointly funded by UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and 10 other consortium partners including Nissan and Hitachi, the Nissan Leaf wound its way across the UK countryside from Cranfield in the south to Sunderland in the north.
Using advanced positioning technology the vehicle navigated motorways, roundabouts and country lanes typical of the undulating landscape, using behaviours developed in test track activities to explore what self-driving could look like.
“The main aim of the project is for the HumanDrive car to travel in a way that is comfortable, natural and ultimately trustworthy for the user,” said professor Natasha Merat, chair in human factors of transport systems at the University of Leeds.
“Integrating human-like controllers in automated vehicles will provide a smoother, more comfortable, experience for drivers and our algorithm development is trying to achieve this, along with an understanding of what people want from an automated driving experience.
“Using our state-of-the-art driving simulator, we have spent the past 30 months developing new control models for automated vehicles, using data from a range of participants, which are then evaluated by drivers and compared to a recording of their own drive.”
Future of transport minister George Freeman said in a statement that autonomous vehicle and traffic management technology had the potential to create thousands of jobs and that Nissan’s successful HumanDrive project was “an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution could look”.
“Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is an incredible achievement for Nissan and the HumanDrive consortium, and a huge step towards the rollout of driverless cars on UK streets,” said business minister Nadhim Zahawi in a statement.
“This project is a shining example of how the automotive industry, working with government, can drive forward technology to benefit people’s mobility – while helping to slash carbon emissions.”
While largely a UK-based project, lessons learned will also help inform future autonomous driving systems such as Nissan’s ProPilot.
“Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world,” said David Moss, senior VP for R&D for Nissan Europe.
“The door is now open to build on this successful UK research project, as we move towards a future which is more autonomous, more electric, and more connected.”
The drive, which took place in November 2019, was completed with two engineers on board supervising the vehicle at all times.
It is thought that it is the longest and most complex autonomous drive of its type in the UK to date.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.