Birmingham to lead on autonomous vehicle project as part of £11m funding programme announced by Jaguar Land Rover and EPSRC

The University of Birmingham is one of ten UK universities to receive funding to research autonomous vehicles. The programme was announced today (9 October) by Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid, during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover’s facility at Gaydon, Warwickshire.

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Academics and industrialists will be working on a new £11 million research programme to develop fully autonomous cars, jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Jaguar Land Rover. 

As part of its strategic partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, EPSRC issued a joint call for research proposals that focussed on developing fully autonomous cars Towards Autonomy - Smart and Connected Control. Five projects were selected and Jaguar Land Rover will be leading the collaboration with these successful research groups.

Dr Marina Gashinova, from the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, will be leading a study that will look into how an autonomous car performs in bad weather. It will also look at sensing systems that can provide driver assistance and facilitate truly autonomous vehicle operation.

Dr Gashinova explained:
 ‘Current experimental autonomous vehicles come laden with sensors including short and long range radar, LiDAR and mono/stereo video cameras. Although there have been some very impressive examples of autonomous or near-autonomous operation using a combination of a-priori maps and data from these sensor suites, the environments in which they operate are highly constrained and full autonomy is not achievable in the short term. True full autonomy and improved driver assistance need a sensor suite which can provide rich information to enable automatic optimisation of the vehicle for travel over any terrain in all weathers.’

The University of Birmingham, with its long standing excellence in automotive radar research and radar technologies, the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University with world class expertise in signal processing, radar imaging, video analytics, LiDAR and accelerated algorithms, will come together to carry out fundamental and applied research on novel multifunction multimodal sensing technology by combining, for the first time, high-resolution low-THz radar and video imagery for a new generation of all-weather automotive sensors intended for both driver assistance and autonomous driving.

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid stated: 
‘The UK Government has no intention of being a passenger in innovation so is pioneering autonomous car technology in partnership with industry. This £11 million research and development programme and the winning projects are a perfect example of this and will help to keep us at the forefront of the robotics revolution.’

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, added:
 ‘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. 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.’

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. The universities and partners in these projects will take novel approaches to safely change the way we travel in the future.’

EPSRC is working in partnership to deliver the UK’s national strategy in Robotics and Autonomous Systems through such inter-connected investments.