WMG to use AI-powered pedestrians and other road users to test AVs

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Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick in the UK has just begun a £2.7m (US$3.5m) UK government funded project to create a highly accurate virtual reality simulator environment, including artificial intelligence (AI) trained models of pedestrians and road users, to test connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV). It is working with a consortium of 11 organizations lead by Latent Logic in Oxford.

OmniCAV, which was awarded funding as part of a competition run by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Innovate UK, will be fed with highly detailed scans of real roads, traffic camera data, accident data and near-miss analyses. These inputs will be used to create a high-fidelity model of real-world roads, which will be populated with realistic AI-based road users. This model will used to create an extensive open-access library of VR simulator scenarios to test connected and autonomous vehicles.

The realism of the simulator will be validated through a comparison of its outputs with data measured at the equivalent locations and scenarios in the real world. This will include tests on proving grounds and open roads.

The project will culminate in a CAV being put through the entire end-to-end OmniCAV testing program, from simulator-only, to controlled environment, to on-road testing. It is hoped that OmniCAV’s results will influence, or lead to the creation of new international standards.

Prof. Paul Jennings, head of intelligent vehicles at WMG and WMG’s principal investigator on the OmniCAV project, said, “At WMG we have long believed that simulation will play a key role in the testing and certification of CAVs. Our 3D simulator provides a platform with which to bridge the virtual world and real world and since its commissioning in 2016 has played a vital role in our research strategy.

“Scenario identification and virtual validation are still major challenges for the CAV industry. In OmniCAV, we have a diverse and capable set of partners to advance the current state of knowledge, enabling the safe deployment of CAVs to provide benefits for us all.”

Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes, CEO of project lead Latent Logic, commented, “OmniCAV’s vision is ‘CAVs for all’: bringing safer, smarter, self-driving mobility to urban and rural areas. But first we need to know that driverless cars really can handle our challenging road conditions, on country lanes as much as crowded city streets. Virtual reality ‘driving tests’ are the only way of doing this, which is why we’ve brought together these 11 leading organizations to build a world-first, AI-based simulation of real Oxfordshire roads to securely and reliably test autonomous car safety.”

Project partners are Latent Logic; WM; Admiral, Aimsun; Arcadis; Arrival; Ordnance Survey; Oxfordshire County Council; UK Atomic Energy Agency; and XPI Simulation. Thatcham Research is providing advice as a non-funded partner.

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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