Professor Paul Newman (Balliol 1991) is part of the team whose work has led to the trialling of a self-driving electric vehicle in a public space for the first time on 11 October 2016. The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, was developed by his company, Oxbotica, working with Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.
Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment. It can work in pedestrianised environments as well as roads and motorways, and is not reliant on GPS to operate. This means it can easily transition between indoor and outdoor settings, over ground or underground. Developed to be ‘vehicle agnostic’, it can be applied to cars, self-driving pods (for instance at airports) and warehouse truck fleets.
The testing of the vehicle was done by Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) in Milton Keynes and marked the conclusion of the LUTZ Pathfinder Project. TSC’s Programme Director said of the trial: ‘Oxford University’s technology will go on to power automated vehicles around the world … Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey.’ You can watch a video of the driverless car here.
Professor Newman said to Sky News: ‘Technology like this is going to have a big part to play in our lives … I see it as more than just driverless cars, though. Think about all the things that move: ports, warehouse, farming, agriculture, mining – it’s the software that makes these things extraordinary. It’s … the information engineering, it’s programmes that can take data from cameras and lasers and turn that into an understanding for the machine of what’s going on, and from that it can figure out what it should do. So we have three questions: where am I? What’s around me? What should I do? And the software answers that question really fast… all the time.’
Paul Newman is the BP Professor of Information Engineering and an EPSRC Leadership at Oxford. He heads up the Mobile Robotics Group within the Department of Engineering Science. He is interviewed in a video of the trial here.