An £11million research programme to develop fully autonomous cars, ‘Towards Autonomy - Smart and Connected Control’, is being jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

The research, which will take place at ten UK universities and the Transport Research Laboratory, was announced by Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid during a visit to JLR’s facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Five projects have been selected and JLR will be leading the collaboration with these research groups.

“To realise the future potential for fully autonomous vehicles, we need to give drivers, pedestrians and other road users the confidence that a car driving around with little or no human input is a safe, viable and rewarding experience,” Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology, JLR, said. “These collaborative projects will bring some of the UK’s leading academics together with our autonomous driving team to address the fundamental real-world challenges that are part of our journey towards autonomous driving.”

The projects will look into the use of radar and video sensing to interpret the external environment, road conditions and other road users; how drivers will react to new autonomous systems; how systems can be designed to adapt to the personal characteristics of users; investigate how the transition between human control and automated systems can be designed to best effect; how distributed control systems and cloud computing can be integrated with vehicles; and how data from intelligent infrastructure, drivers and automated vehicles can be used to aid interaction.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive, said; “Science and engineering research is vital to technological innovation and to keeping UK businesses at the forefront of global markets. This joint investment shows how strategic partnerships between the research councils, universities and business can identify industry’s challenges and build the academic expertise needed to meet them.”