Consortium partners with Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP
Consortium partners with Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP

A car developed with advanced vehicle engineering research and testing facilities at Cranfield University has successfully completed the UK’s longest and most complex self-navigated journey. Travelling 230 miles on UK roads from the Nissan European Technical Centre in Cranfield up to its factory in Sunderland, the autonomous car journey was alongside regular road users and marks a significant milestone in the development of autonomous cars.

Huge step towards autonomous cars

Throughout the project, Cranfield’s Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation (MUEAVI) was used for testing and to develop measurement techniques and car performance.  The research team involved in the project analysed and helped fine-tune the vehicle’s control systems, to try to more closely replicate a human driving style.

Attending a demonstration of the project at Cranfield this week, Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP said: “Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is an incredible achievement for Nissan and the HumanDrive consortium, and a huge step towards the rollout of driverless cars on UK streets.

“This project is a shining example of how the automotive industry, working with government, can drive forward technology to benefit people’s mobility - while helping to slash carbon emissions.”

Developing human-like driving characteristics

Professor James Brighton, Head of the Advanced Vehicle Engineering Centre at Cranfield University and Professor of Automotive Engineering, said: “The automotive sector is changing at a rate not seen for many decades, with car manufacturers and technology companies rapidly developing new autonomous systems that will redefine the future of transport.

“Cranfield’s role in this project has been to develop ways of measuring human-like driving behaviour and then verify that this is reflected in the autonomous driving style of the cars. Our Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation (MUEAVI) – a ‘smart’ road test environment, which is a first of its kind in the UK, built alongside a research airport within the controlled setting of a University campus –has been used to analyse and fine-tune the autonomous vehicle’s perception and control systems that have produced the human-like driving characteristics.”

Systems developed with research at Cranfield meant the car could successfully navigate many challenging scenarios, including driving around other road users including cyclists, pedestrians, other vehicles, and negotiating roundabouts and junctions.

Developing the car engineers of the future

Supporting the needs of the car industry of the future, Cranfield is set to launch a new degree which will incorporate autonomous vehicles. Professor Brighton says: “The project has also provided our Automotive Engineering and Mechatronics MSc students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the technology that will define the next generation of automotive vehicles. In 2020 Cranfield launches its new MSc in Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Engineering to train the next generation of automotive engineers who will further develop these technologies.”

About HumanDrive and the Grand Drive

The HumanDrive project – jointly funded by the UK Government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Innovate UK, and nine other consortium partners – includes:

  • Nissan - Lead partner and leading the autonomous vehicle (AV) development
  • Hitachi - Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide human-like control and perception
  • University of Leeds - Understanding humanistic driving and its application to AVs whilst also developing a driver risk model
  • Connected Places Catapult (CPC) - Project management, communications and marketing activity, dissemination and safety case elements of the project
  • HORIBA MIRA - Provider of test facilities, supported safety aspects of the project
  • SBD Automotive - Cyber security support and AV Human machine Interface (HMI) studies
  • Atkins Ltd - Provision of a Cyber Security Framework
  • Aimsun Ltd - Studying the impact of AVs on the transport system
  • Highways England - Understanding the infrastructure needs for AV deployment

The Grand Drive journey was successfully completed on 28 November 2019, with two engineers on board and monitoring the vehicle’s actions at all times. Both were fully trained to conduct autonomous vehicle testing, with one behind the wheel and ready to take control if required, and the second supervising the car’s control and monitoring systems.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. Cranfield has over 60 years’ experience in transport, including the aviation, automotive, motorsport, military and marine sectors.

Our Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation is a £9 million ‘smart’ roadway test environment for the development of intelligent and autonomous vehicles, the first of its kind in the UK next to an airport and within the controlled setting of a university campus. It includes the associated systems needed to integrate emerging technologies into our day-to-day lives.

Cranfield University is working at the forefront of research and teaching in motorsport, automotive engineering and mechatronics. Courses include the Automotive Mechatronics MSc, the Automotive Engineering MSc, and the new Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (Automotive) MSc.