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Driverless car trial set to go live on UK roads in 2019

Driverless cars are set to hit UK roads in 2019 after a consortium of British companies unveiled plans to test the vehicles between London and Oxford.

Driven, led by driverless software group Oxbotica, received a £8.6 million grant from the UK government and will test a fleet of 10 autonomous vehicles on UK motorways while continuing self-driving pod trials in London.

Testing will also take place at RACE, a robotics centre in Oxfordshire, with founder Prof Paul Newman, of Oxford University, saying: “We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle to fleets of autonomous vehicles – and what’s interesting is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.”

Related: Who’s to blame when driverless cars get it wrong?

The fleet of vehicles is said to be able to communicate with each other, relaying information about possible hazards, with plans to also test out a smartphone app that will allow users to order autonomous rides.

Although the cars themselves will be almost entirely autonomous, a human driver will be on-board to ensure nothing goes awry.

Insurer XL Catlin will also be involved, testing and assessing the various risks that the project encounters at every stage.

That’s an important element to the project, as one of the main hurdles faced by driverless cars will be the legal obstacles likely to be thrown up when it comes to insurance considerations and various countries’ legislation.

The Driven group’s grant comes as part of the UK government’s plans, unveiled on Monday, to boost the country’s autonomous driving efforts with a £13 million investment in numerous projects.

Other companies, including Nissan are testing out driverless cars in London, with the government putting a big emphasis on developing the technology in the future.

Meanwhile, Cambridge-based artificial intelligence firm FiveAI are leading their own consortium call StreetWise, which has been granted £12.8m in funding.

Also involved in the StreetWise consortium is insurance company Direct Line, the University of Oxford, Transport for London, and the Transport Research Laboratory.

FiveAI says it plans to raise further funding to grow its own operation and continue testing self-driving vehicles on private land before starting trials on rural roads, and eventually in urban environments.

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