TRL, the Transport Research Laboratory, has announced it is part a new £11m research programme to develop fully autonomous cars.

The programme, jointly funded by Jaguar Land Rover and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at some key technologies and questions that need to be addressed before driverless cars can be allowed on the roads without jeopardising the safety of other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

TRL is the only non-university research institute involved in the programme and will work alongside the University of Surrey, Warwick University and Imperial College London on a project to understand how distributed control systems and cloud computing can be integrated with vehicles. The project, which will be led by Dr Mehrdad Dianati from the University of Surrey, aims to design and validate a novel, Secure Cloud-based Distributed Control (SCDC) framework for connected and autonomous cars.

Alan Stevens, Chief Scientist at TRL commented; “The project will explore how increasingly automated and connected vehicles can operate safely and securely when connected to each other and, via the road infrastructure, to cloud-based resources. Ultimately the aim is to develop a secure framework that will enable the implementation of safe and robust semi-autonomous functions on future cars in the short term, and fully autonomous cars in the long term.”

The project win adds to a growing portfolio of innovative research projects for TRL in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles. Notable projects include the GATEway project, one of three UK projects to test ‘driverless’ vehicles in UK urban locations; Sentience, the testing of partial automation on UK roads; ADAPTATION, simulator research into behaviour of “non-equipped” drivers when driving in mixed and automated traffic and a Heavy Vehicle Platooning Study for the Department of Transport. Other projects include research into the business case for automated vehicles, implications for highways authorities and cybersecurity of automated vehicles.

As well as vehicle automation, TRL is active in development of V2X cooperative systems, which may be crucial in realising the potential of automated vehicles. It’s also an active member in the iMobility Automation in Road Transport Working Group and the VRA project - a support action funded by the European Union.

The new research programme was announced on October 9 by secretary of state for business Sajid Javid during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover’s facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire. It will take place over a five-year period and consist of five separate projects involving TRL and ten UK universities.

The announcement follows a joint call for research proposals from Jaguar Land Rover and EPSRC entitled “Towards Autonomy - Smart and Connected Control” (TASCC). Five projects were selected from a pool of submissions, with details of the other four projects in the programme found below:

• A team led by the universities of Birmingham and Edinburgh will focus on the development of new radar sensors and advanced video analysis that would allow the cars to better identify obstacles and hazards on the road.

• Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton will study drivers’ reactions to autonomous vehicles, with the aim of designing the best driver-vehicle interaction.

• University College London engineers together with Cranfield University researchers will look into the effects of automated driving on drivers’ attention and cognition and their possible negative impact on driving.

• Researchers from the University of Warwick will focus on the development of a self-learning car that will minimise distractions, enhance safety and deliver a personalised driving experience.

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid commented: “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.”

“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,” said Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at Jaguar Land Rover. “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 added: “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.”


Notes for Editors:

This competition is part of an ambitious, wider programme of activity on connected and autonomous vehicles which includes the Chancellor's Spring Budget 2015 announcement of £100 million collaborative R&D funding (the first £20 million competition for which closed on 30 September); the publication of the Code of Practice, a world-leading innovation for testing these technologies on UK roads; and the creation of a joint policy unit, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, to coordinate and enhance government activity.

About TRL

TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, provides independent and impartial world-class research, consultancy, testing and certification for all aspects of transport. Commercially independent and with over 80 years of knowledge and experience embedded in its history, TRL’s work encompasses a breadth of areas that shape and form today’s transport decisions including: safety, highway engineering and maintenance, sustainability, attitudes and behaviours, simulation and modelling, climate change, engineering, product development, standards and specifications. The company’s expertise is also increasingly being transferred successfully to new sectors including autonomous vehicles, smart cities and energy.

TRL has over 1,000 customers across 145 countries worldwide. More information can be found at

About The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

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