A £15 million project spearheaded by private hire company Addison Lee Group could see autonomous vehicle services operate commercially in London by 2021.
Project Endeavour, which was officially launched at the Cenex-LCV low carbon vehicle event earlier this month, sees the business lead a consortium of autonomous vehicle specialists including Oxbotica, DG Cities, Immense Simulations and Nominet.
From next summer, the aim is to pilot an accessible, autonomous and eco-friendly ride-share service in areas of the Royal Borough of Greenwich currently poorly served by public transport.
It is designed to complement existing public transport and will involve up to 10 Ford Mondeo vehicles, capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, carrying out 25,000 passenger trips in 12 months. If successful, Addison Lee Group will look to launch a commercial service the following year.
The project will build on the Merge Greenwich autonomous ride-sharing service research exercise – also led by Addison Lee – carried out last year by a number of Project Endeavour consortium members, which found that, unless next-generation services are designed and implemented appropriately, they could lead to an increase in emissions and congestion of up to 52%.
It also follows Addison Lee Group’s recent partnership with Oxbotica to create detailed, digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around London.
“(Project Endeavour) is a showcase of British technology and service innovation, and our vision is to accelerate commercial connected and autonomous vehicle passenger services to market,” says Paul McCabe, innovation director at Addison Lee Group.
“Our belief is that we are in the middle of a seismic change in the transport industry.
“It is only when autonomous technology is plugged in that the service innovation really starts.
“No one really knows what kind of thing is coming, what kind of services can be created, or what kind of business innovation can happen.
“The important thing for operators like us is that we are able to adapt.”
Addison Lee Group was selected to lead the project in November last year after a successful bid to the Government’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) 4 programme.
The project officially kicked-off in March and DG Cities is currently carrying out a survey among residents across London to help the consortium design its pilot scheme to best meet their travel needs.
“When we get to January, things start to get very real,” says Lacey Barnfather, Endeavour project manager. “That’s when we need to start recruiting the drivers and begin operational deployment.”
The consortium is aiming to provide four pilots running up to a 12-month period in Greenwich.
Journeys will be booked through the Addison Lee app and as each Mondeo will be capable of Level 4 autonomy – where the vehicle performs all driving tasks under specific circumstances – each will have a safety driver on board.
Addison Lee Group will also continue its (human) driven services in the borough, and hopes the autonomous vehicle trial will help it cover the ‘blackspots’ of areas not currently covered by public transport.
“There are lots of opportunities for us to provide a service that complements those areas,” says Barnfather.
“We really want to let the service bed in to help people with their commutes, school runs or other journeys.
“We will test and learn as we go. We don’t know exactly how it will go or all of the barriers we will come across, but we do have this period to learn and get the information that we require from this programme.”
Alongside the pilot scheme, Addison Lee Group will also carry out both behavioural and city level research which will help the design of the technology and the services.
“We want to know how people are reacting to these services, how are they feeling about them, because – and this is important – because only if people are comfortable with them, they feel safe and want to use them do we have something that is commercially viable and we can take forwards,” says McCabe.
“All of this is complemented by a simulation produced by Immense using real-world data we are collecting to look at these kinds of services on a citywide basis.”
The pilots will be completed by summer 2021, and the consortium will then carry out a full analysis to determine the next steps.
“We can start to make our decisions as to whether we continue those services if they are commercially viable and, if not, we know exactly why they’re not and what needs to be done to overcome those challenges,” says Barnfather.
McCabe adds: “The one question I get asked the most is ‘where are we going next with this?’. Through Endeavour we are planning to push the boundaries of commercialisation.
“We want to find out if we can commercialise the service at this stage. If people are prepared to part with their hard-earned money to use the service, then we know we’ve got success.
“We can target gaps in the transport network and cover those blackspots, and eventually if you imagine the service fulfilling the needs in those gaps, then perhaps they come together and broaden out, and eventually we will be serving areas of the city with this new type of service.
“That journey could go quickly, it could go slowly, it could take anything from five to 10 years. It all depends on many factors, such as the technology, the regulation and legislation and the public’s willingness to accept it.”
McCabe says the project also involves building an open platform which will allow providers of autonomous vehicle technology to access Addison Lee Group’s market and fulfil rides on its platform.
Barnfather adds: “What is really paramount to understanding Endeavour is not only does it prepare each one of our consortium members for an autonomous future, the success of Endeavour actually aids the UK towards the adoption of AV services.
“All the little wins we achieve help the UK as a whole.”
Addison Lee Group
Addison Lee Group will use Endeavour to develop new mobility solutions to meet changing customer and environmental needs and to enter the forecasted £1.6 billion a year market for new passenger services in London by 2022. The company says Endeavour will refine and strive to achieve ‘service readiness’ across areas including profitability, customer satisfaction, vehicle utilisation, service fulfilment and city impact. When all criteria has been met, the Addison Lee Group will roll out full autonomous vehicle services in London, UK cities and internationally.
Endeavour will enable real-life validation of Oxbotica’s autonomy software system, Selenium, and its cloud-based mission control system, Caesium. Through Endeavour, Oxbotica aims to show performance of a coordinated commercial Mobility as a Service fleet, enabling it to commercialise its investment and grow its AV technology offering in the UK as well as overseas.
Endeavour enables DG Cities to better understand travel needs of the growing population and how autonomous vehicle ride-share can address urban transport issues. DG Cities also seeks to understand interdependencies between the design of the built environment, the vehicle and the service.
Immense developed its connected and autonomous vehicle service simulation capability through the Talon and Merge Greenwich projects. Its IMSim platform will help Endeavour design and evaluate effective autonomous vehicle ride-sharing services across London, then test these services in other geographies worldwide. Endeavour will refine Immense’s ‘Simulation as a Service’ business model and help develop effective partnerships.
Nominet is developing and applying cyber security tools, technologies and expertise to CAVs and digital infrastructure which are vital to the future development of this sector.
Using Addison Lee’s app, a customer can select their preferred time and pick-up and drop-off points before making their booking.
With the booking confirmed, the app will show the customer where they need to walk to so they can be picked up.
The customer can then track the progress of their Endeavour vehicle on the app to help synchronise at the pick-up point.
If the customer has selected
sharing as a preference, then their Endeavour ride will stop on route to pick up additional passengers.
The Endeavour vehicle will take then take customers safely and efficiently to their final drop-off destinations.