An autonomous electric vehicle has completed a 230 mile journey on public roads, including country lanes, junctions, roundabouts and motorways.
The modified 2017 electric Nissan LEAF travelled from Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield, Beds, to the brand’s manufacturing plant in Sunderland.
Over the course of the journey, the autonomous tackled country lanes with no or minimal road markings in addition to motorways, junctions and roundabouts.
‘The UK is fast becoming a leader in intelligent and automated vehicle and traffic management technology, a huge global sector set to create thousands of jobs.
‘Our Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy is supporting transport innovation for cleaner, greener and smarter transport, and Nissan’s successful HumanDrive project is an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution could look.’
Future of Transport Minister
The autonomous technology activated along the route to change lanes, merge and stop and start when necessary.
The only moment the passenger took control of the LEAF was to drive into motorway services – in order to charge it.
The achievement took place on public roads, surrounded by motorists who were none the wiser. It’s the result of 30 months’ work by a consortium of industry leaders, backed by the UK government, in what has been known as the HumanDrive project.
Nissan worked with Hitachi, Highways England and a number of other partners to produce ‘one of the most technologically advanced autonomous vehicles ever seen’.
‘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.
‘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.’
The LEAF is capable of handling narrow winding roads, carriageways with no lane division markings and poorly marked roundabouts, all on its own.
By building a dataset of previously encountered traffic scenarios and solutions, it can use this ‘learned experience’ to handle similar scenarios in future and plot a safe route around an obstacle.
‘The HumanDrive project allowed us to develop an autonomous vehicle that can tackle challenges encountered on UK roads that are unique to this part of the world, such as complex roundabouts and high-speed country lanes with no road markings, white lines or kerbs.’
Project manager at Nissan Technical Centre Europe
The technology has been designed ‘to create a more familiar and comfortable experience for passengers in the car’, essentially by making the way the car acts more ‘human like’.
The HumanDrive project demonstrates the commitment to making autonomous vehicles a reality on European roads.
‘Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world.
‘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.’
Senior vice president for Research & Development in Europe, Nissan Europe
HumanDrive is jointly funded by the UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Innovate UK and nine other consortium partners. The joint funding package for the project totalled £13.5m.