Andrew Harris, chief engineer for software, controls and autonomous driving at Tata Motors, reveals more about the company’s role on the UK Autodrive project and discoveries made
How and when did Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) become involved in the UK Autodrive project and what is the company’s role in the project?
TMETC has been involved in UK Autodrive since the start in November 2015. We are one of the three OEMs in the consortium, the others being JLR and Ford Motor Co. As well as taking part in the various round-table discussions, our role is to supply M1 vehicles to be used as part of the trials and demonstrations.
What systems and technologies are you providing? Has TMETC provided any M1 vehicles for the trials? If so, which ones and why these models?
The vehicles TMETC is providing for the trials are based on the Tata Hexa, an SUV manufactured in India and launched in early 2017 for the Indian market. Part of the reason for choosing this vehicle is its large interior space, which can accommodate the necessary autonomous driving hardware and several engineers/visitors in comfort.
What did the two sets of private proving ground trials entail and what were the results of these tests?
At the first trials in October 2016 at MIRA, TMETC demonstrated two V2X functions alongside JLR and Ford – GLOSA (green light optimal speed advisory) and EEBL (emergency electronic brake light). JLR also demonstrated cruise assist at this event. At the second set of trials in June 2017, we added three further V2X functions: IVS (in-vehicle signage), ICW (intersection collision warning) and EVW (emergency vehicle warning), again demonstrating alongside JLR and Ford. JLR also demonstrated a basic autonomous drive on the MIRA city circuit at the June 2017 event.
The tests showed that the three OEMs were able to separately develop V2X functions while working independently to the same specification, and then to demonstrate them collaboratively. The features demonstrated have the potential to bring about real-world improvements in safety and convenience.
What did the first collaborative trials of connected and autonomous vehicles on open city roads entail and what were the results of these tests?
In November 2017, all three OEMs took to the streets in Coventry to trial V2X and autonomous driving in a real-world environment. All three OEMs took part in the V2X trial while TMETC and JLR also demonstrated autonomous driving. The V2X features chosen for demonstration were IVS and EVW, plus a newly developed collaborative parking feature (CoP) that enables vehicles entering a car lot to receive live information about the location of empty spaces. A fire service vehicle fitted with a transmitter was used to demonstrate the emergency vehicle warning feature.
The autonomous driving demonstration was carried out on a circular route around Coventry city center; this route was chosen because of its urban setting and reduced speed limit – mostly 20mph (32km/h). Although the autonomous systems are technically capable of SAE Level 4 automation, for the trials we have a safety driver ready to take over at all times so we are actually running at SAE Level 3. During the trials we demonstrated V2X and autonomous driving to invited guests. People appreciated the potential safety and convenience benefits of the V2X features and it was interesting to see people’s responses to autonomous driving – after the initial surprise, most people very quickly became accustomed to the technology.
Have the initial public demonstrations made you rethink or reconsider anything about how you’ll go about the final demo later this year?
The Coventry autonomous demonstration route was in an area close to Coventry University that has very heavy pedestrian traffic. Reflecting the early stage of development of the autonomous vehicles, marshals were used at key points to control traffic and pedestrians in order to maintain safety during the trial. As the project progresses, the M1 autonomous vehicles are continuously increasing in capability so that fewer special measures and restrictions will be necessary for later demonstrations.
Since the project began, have you encountered any surprises or unexpected challenges that have made you rethink how CAV technologies should be tested?
Testing in simulation and on the closed test track is essential, but inevitably at some point everyone involved in autonomous driving development will need to go onto the public road where new and unforeseen situations can present themselves. Throughout the project, we have taken steps to ensure that the system is safe to test on the public road, aiming to minimize required intervention by the safety driver. Testing autonomous driving technologies on the public road has been exciting and has put us on a very steep learning curve. We’re looking forward to the remaining trials and demonstrations.