£1.7m project will pave the way for smarter cities and driverless cars

Driver simulation - human factors 445 x 124

28 Jan 2016 11:01:54.643

Picture a future without gridlock. A future in which our city streets, roads and highways are safer, cleaner and greener.

In which vehicles can self-diagnose a fault and order a new component, or automatically detect a hazard such as ice on the road before it’s too late and warn other vehicles around them too. A future in which cars can drive themselves… 

That future isn’t far away: it is predicted that the UK will see huge growth in the production of autonomous (driverless) cars  by 2030. Meanwhile the production of connected cars — cars with inbuilt “telematics” devices, capable of communicating to other vehicles and machines — is forecast to rise from around 0.8 million in 2015 to two million in 2025, accounting for 95 per cent of all cars produced in the UK.

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Yet whilst the number of cars with the technology to connect is already rising, little progress has been made towards putting this technology to use. 

The new i-Motors project — which today announces a £1.325m award from the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK — plans to address this issue.

The project sets out to establish a set of universal standards on how vehicles communicate with each other, and with other machines.

Making use of connected cars’ ability to support apps, i-Motors — led by academics from The University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute and Human Factors Research Group and digital technology company Control F1 — will build a mobile platform that allows vehicles of different manufacturers and origins to transfer and store data. 

The i-Motors team will use patented technology, allowing data to be collected and analysed at greater speeds than ever before.

Capitalising on the experience of traffic management experts InfoHub Ltd, these data can then be combined with other data sources such as weather reports, event data and traffic feeds, easing congestion and increasing safety through realtime updates and route planning.

In addition, the platform will allow vehicles to report errors, which can be automatically crosschecked against similar reports to diagnose the problem and reduce the chance of a breakdown.

The project will adopt a human-centred approach, aiming to understand the complex issues involved in the provision of new information and services for the “drivers” of future vehicles.

Tapping into Head Communications’ expertise, i-Motors will also address the issue of limited connectivity by developing sensors capable of transmitting data to the cloud in realtime.

Through installing these sensors — known as Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) — vehicles can remain connected with sub-metre precision, even when out of internet and GPS range.

The project will make use of Huduma’s experience working on telecoms solutions on a global scale to make i-Motors sustainable and commercially successful in the long term.

i-Motors already has the backing of Nottingham, Coventry and Sheffield City Councils, where the new technology will first be piloted, and a letter of support from the Transport Systems and Satellite Applications Catapult, and fleet management experts Isotrak.

Xiaolin Meng, Associate Professor and UK Director of the Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Centre at the University of Nottingham, says: “We look forward to using our geospatial expertise and research to design a new data-sharing platform for autonomous vehicles.

"An intelligent mobility project such as i-Motors will allow us to work directly with industry to help make road use safer and more efficient, and we would like to thank Innovate UK for its generous financial support.”

Dr Gary Burnett, Associate Professor in Human Factors, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, says: “With 90 per cent of vehicle crashes largely down to human error, the next step change in driving safety can only really happen if you relieve the driver from certain tasks. 

“This radical change in the driver-car relationship requires considerable human factors research to ensure users of future vehicles trust and accept the new information and services on offer.

"We will use our ‘state of the art’ immersive driving simulator to investigate how to design connected and autonomous vehicles to ensure the potential of the technology can be realised.”

Control F1 MD Andy Dumbell says: “We are delighted to have been awarded the funding by Innovate UK to lead on this ground-breaking project. Connected and driverless cars offer us the opportunity to make huge strides in terms of reducing congestion, bringing down emissions, and even saving lives. Yet as is always the case when dealing with big data, it’s only effective if you know how to use it.

"We believe that through i-Motors we can set the standard for connected and autonomous vehicles and redefine the future of our streets, highways and cities.” 

Study at The University of Nottingham

PhD opportunities are available within The Human Factors Research Group. If you wish to discuss these then please contact Dr Gary Burnett on +44 (0)115 9514030 or  gary.burnett@nottingham.ac.uk.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for three years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Associate Professor Xiaolin Meng in the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 3466029, xiaolin.meng@nottingham.ac.uk; or Dr Gary Burnett, Human Factors Research Group, on +44 (0)115 9514030, gary.burnett@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.lowry@nottingham.ac.uk  Phone: +44 (0)115 846 7156  Location: University Park

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