ServCity, the UK’s most recent autonomous mobility service research project, has concluded its final testing phase on the streets of London. For the past three years it has been working to understand how to help cities successfully incorporate autonomous vehicle technologies into a complex urban environment to deliver a “Robotaxi” style service, creating a blueprint of the type of infrastructure that will be required to support such technologies.
ServCity is jointly funded by government and industry, the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility fund administered by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. Over three years, six partners – Nissan, Connected Places Catapult, TRL, Hitachi Europe, the University of Nottingham and SBD Automotive – have been collaborating to develop a blueprint that will guide OEMs, transport providers and city planners to get ‘CAV-ready’ in the UK’s cities.
Built upon a 100% electric Nissan LEAF, the ServCity CAV has successfully completed increasingly challenging validation trials in the real-world environment of TRL’s urban testbed, the Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL), based in Greenwich. ServCity was able to leverage the full capabilities of the SMLL which used its network of roadside sensors and 5G enabled data processing suite to create a futuristic cooperative infrastructure environment, sending new sources of data to the CAV to improve its situational awareness (e.g. alerting the CAV to the intention of an unseen bus to stop ahead).
At the heart of ServCity is the aim to show that autonomous technology can provide a truly people-centric mobility service, and which adjustments to the road’s infrastructure are most desirable to make that service the best user experience possible.
This project, as with all the previous CAV development projects backed by Government funding, is an important means of giving people the confidence that CAVs are safe to introduce onto UK roads. To that end, the finale of the project is a series of demonstrations to stakeholders where guests have been able to experience what an initial deployment of the CAV and CAV-ready infrastructure technologies might be like.
David Moss, Senior Vice President, Region Research & Development for Nissan AMIEO (Africa, Middle East, India, Europe, and Oceania) said: “We are extremely proud to be a part of the ServCity project and our 100% electric Nissan LEAF has proven to be the ideal test vehicle. Through our Nissan Ambition 2030 long-term vision, we are committed to supporting greater access to safe and exciting mobility. Advancing our autonomous drive capability and expertise is critical to this effort and research projects such as ServCity are vital to the evolution of technology.
“Through our world-class R&D base in Cranfield in the UK, Nissan is continuously innovating to bring cutting-edge, purpose-driven technologies that benefit our customers. ServCity’s achievements contribute to our efforts to usher in a future where we hope to see zero fatalities on the road while providing customers with the added comfort and convenience that come from advanced autonomous drive technologies.”
Autonomous drive technology is a key pillar within Nissan Ambition 2030, a long-term vision which will see the company strive to create a cleaner, safer and more inclusive world.
Robert Bateman, Manager, Nissan Technical Centre Europe and Nissan Project Manager for ServCity said: “Not only has Nissan provided the 100% electric Nissan LEAF as a test vehicle, our talented group of engineers have also contributed to the research and development of cutting-edge autonomous drive technology for use within the project. This has enabled the development of a test vehicle that is able to autonomously navigate the busy streets of London alongside other road users – both stationery and moving – while connected with city infrastructure.
“With more than 115 people involved and almost 16,000 working days clocked up across the consortia during the lifetime of the project, ServCity represents an important step towards future deployment of autonomous mobility.”
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “The Government has invested £7million in this project to be at the forefront of innovation. Since then ServCity has proven key to answer the practical questions of how to integrate self-driving vehicles into cities for the public good.”
Marcel Pooke, Sustainability and GIS Team Lead at Connected Places Catapult said: “Throughout the project Connected Places Catapult has been demonstrating the art of the possible in scaling CAV technologies, and their supporting infrastructure, to help get these vehicles delivering vital services as soon as possible. Based on the potential demand for a CAV service, combined with potential areas of operation, the Catapult has helped create a blueprint that provides a basis for follow-on work by many other organisations and aims to assist and enable the full-scale deployment of an operational Robotaxi service in a UK city.”
Thomas Tompkin, Head of Network Infrastructure and Operations of SMLL said: “ServCity is what the Smart Mobility Living Lab was conceived for – to test emerging technologies safely in a real-world urban testbed and accelerate their commercialisation. We configured our roadside sensor infrastructure and data processing to understand and demonstrate the best ways for CAVs to acquire better shared situational awareness from CAV-ready features within the ITS environment. I’m so proud of our engineering team who have supported all the partners in the ServCity project, pushing the boundaries every day to get us one step closer to a transport system that is cleaner, safer and more accessible.”
Nick Blake, Chief Innovation Strategist, Hitachi Europe said: “The team at Hitachi’s European Research & Development Group has been working on overcoming the complex technical challenges related to safe and reliable autonomous driving in congested urban environments. The ServCity project has allowed us to further develop the essential technologies needed for urban driving such as the ability to make safe decisions based on advanced situational awareness, and robust localisation in urban canyons – where GPS signals may not be reliable. We’ve made massive strides in the past three years, and we will continue to participate in the autonomous driving revolution”.
Gary Burnett, Chair of Transport Human Factors from the Human Factors Research Group at the University of Nottingham said: “ServCity has supported us to develop novel, human-centred methodologies for designing and evaluating the user experience for future autonomous taxis. Using innovative virtual reality (VR) and field observation methodologies, we have focussed on the inclusive design of interfaces for vehicle occupants and other road users, which deliver a positive user experience in the absence of a human driver. Accessibility has been at the forefront of our research, with contributions from a wide range of potential stakeholders to inform all stages of our work. We have also examined human factors considerations for remote operators who might contribute to the user experience from afar.”
Andrew Hart CEO at SBD Automotive said: “Robotaxis have the potential to fundamentally transform mobility for both consumers and the cities they operate in. The user experience lies at the heart of that transformation, as operators will need to carefully balance customer expectations with real-world technological constraints imposed by both vehicles and city infrastructure. The ServCity project has seen theory put into practice, so we are now confident of being able to help car makers design a seamless Robotaxi experience.”