Electric Car Completes UK’s Longest and Most Complex Autonomous Journey

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A top-secret electric vehicle has completed the UK’s longest and most complex autonomous car journey by self-navigating itself along 230 miles on British roads.

The modified 2017 electric Nissan LEAF travelled from the Nissan Technical Center Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, to the brand’s manufacturing plant in Sunderland.

Over the course of the journey, the autonomous car tackled road junctions, roundabouts, motorways, and even country lanes with little or no road markings.

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The car’s autonomous technology activated along the route to change lanes, merge, and stop and start when necessary. The only moment the passenger took control of the LEAF was to drive into motorway services—in order to charge it.

The UK government-backed HumanDrive project, which took place on public roads with surrounding motorists none the wiser, is the result of 30 months of work by a consortium of industry leaders.

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“Our Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy is supporting transport innovation for cleaner, greener and smarter transport,” said Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman, MP from the UK Department For Transport. “Nissan’s successful HumanDrive project is an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution could look.”

Nissan worked with Hitachi, Highways England, and a number of other partners to produce one of the most technologically advanced autonomous vehicles ever seen.

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By building a dataset of previously encountered traffic scenarios and solutions, it can use this “learned experience” to handle similar scenarios in the future and plot a safe route around an obstacle.

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Capable of handling narrow winding roads with no lane division markings and poorly-marked roundabouts all on its own, the LEAF’s technology was designed to create a more familiar and comfortable experience for passengers in the car.

The HumanDrive project demonstrates how car firms like Nissan, along with other industry leaders and the UK government are committed to making autonomous vehicles a reality on European roads.

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HumanDrive is jointly funded by the UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Innovate UK, and nine other consortium partners. The joint funding package for the project totaled £13.5 million ($17.5 million).

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“Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world,” said David Moss, senior vice president for Research & Development in Europe, Nissan Europe. “The door is now open to build on this successful UK research project, as we move towards a future which is more autonomous, more electric, and more connected.”

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