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Green light to launch UK’s controlled urban test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles

Millbrook, the leading independent vehicle test and validation services provider, in collaboration with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s centre for Remote Applications for Challenging Environments (RACE) has announced plans to launch a unique, controlled test bed representative of an urban environment for the development of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies. The project will be co-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Meridian, as part of the “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Test Beds” competition.

The investment addresses the critical need for a controlled, but realistic urban test environment that seamlessly connects with other CAV test functions and open road urban environments. The road and test track networks at Culham Science Centre and Millbrook Proving Ground respectively will be upgraded to capture the complexity of real urban contexts and to enable advanced connectivity testing, while being safe and secure for all users, from OEMs, SMEs and start-ups at all levels of autonomy and readiness.

RACE has use of 10 km of roads on the secure United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority site at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The adult population on site will enable testing to capture human aspects of real-world operation for CAVs, extending to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), in a semi-controlled and safe way.

Millbrook has 70 km of test tracks at its proving ground in the UK, offering a diverse topography to replicate urban contexts. The site is already being used for testing a spectrum of CAV technologies, as well as for proving safety, comfort, durability and reliability, from full vehicle to component level.

The two sites will offer all-weather, multi-user access and seamless transfers between environments, cost-effectively addressing all functional requirements, both current and future, of any real-world urban scenario.

The investment will enable faster development of CAV technologies by bridging the gap between track testing and deployment on public roads. It will offer users, including the developers of software, sensors, roadside units, cyber security systems and telecoms, access to flexible plug-and-play communications, including 5G emulation, co-located virtual and physical validations capability, open-source reference vehicles, and a comprehensive physical environment for test and validation.

“This is a critical step in accelerating the development of CAV technologies”, said Alex Burns, President of Millbrook. “We are pleased to be developing world-class CAV test infrastructure in the UK as part of a coherent cluster. Safety is paramount in everything that we do and these developments align perfectly with our priorities, helping to ensure robust scrutiny of performance and the safe passage of technologies from concept to the real world.”

Dr Rob Buckingham, RACE’s Director, said: “We are delighted to support the CAV sector by hosting long-term testing at Culham Science Centre. We have two strategic ambitions: to enable the UK to play a leading role globally in this area; and to understand how autonomous vehicles will change infrastructure and services for public mobility through to industrial logistics.”

Jim Campbell, Launch Director, Meridian, said: Millbrook’s project is part of a crucial first step to ensure that the UK is best-placed to become a world-leader in connected and autonomous vehicle technology. With this first phase of government funding, Meridian will work with Millbrook to help develop the sophisticated vehicle testing capabilities needed for the UK automotive industry to thrive in the future.”

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Combining ambitious new technologies and innovative business models to address social and economic challenges lies at the heart of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. Accelerating connected and autonomous vehicle technology development is central to achieving this ambition and will help to ensure the UK is one of the world’s go-to locations to develop this sector.

“These projects, backed by Government, form part of a globally unique cluster running from our automotive heartlands in the West Midlands, down through our innovation centres in Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes, through to London, Europe’s only megacity.”

This latest investment adds to Millbrook’s growing capabilities supporting the development of the connected vehicles of the future, from passenger cars to commercial and public transport vehicles. They include a range of instrumentation and soft targets complementing the test tracks, a virtual model of Millbrook’s Proving Ground in the UK and eCall test capability in the safety laboratories.

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