Private hire firm plots self-driving cars in London by 2021

Private hire taxi firm Addison Lee is aiming to offer self-driving transportation services in London by 2021 as part of a deal with autonomous software specialist Oxbotica.

The two companies have reached an agreement to collaborate on the development and operation of self-driving vehicles in the capital. They will start by working together to create detailed digital maps of 250,000 miles of roads around London, collecting data that could underpin the AI required for self-driving cars. The maps will contain details of features such as traffic lights and kerbs, which will allow self-driving cars to precisely locate themselves.

Addison Lee has around 5000 drivers working in London, whose cars could be fitted with devices to record data that will be processed by Oxbotica’s software. At the moment, the deal is focused on software development, rather than developing the hardware for self-driving cars, as US firms such as Uber and Lyft are doing.

Self-driving start-up Oxbotica, which was developed from an Oxford University research project, is involved in several other ventures to develop autonomous software, including the Project Gateway scheme to run driverless Westfield pods in Greenwich. Addison Lee recently helped lead the Merge Greenwich scheme, a government-funded consortium that looked at how autonomous ride-sharing could complement public transport in the area.

Oxbotica boss Graeme Smith called the partnership “a huge leap towards bringing autonomous vehicles into mainstream use on the streets of London, and eventually in cities across the UK and beyond”. Once established in London, the two firms are planning to expand the scheme, starting with New York.

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Addison Lee Group boss Andy Boland added: “Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now.”


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