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Driving simulator nets £4.2 million to research driverless cars

29 March 2015

An EPSRC £3.2m grant plus a further £1m from industry will see one of the world’s most adaptable and advanced driving simulators established at NAIC.

Artist's impression of the National Automotive Innovation Centre (image courtesy of the University of Warwick)

WMG at the University of Warwick has been awarded £3.2 million by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create one of the world’s most adaptable and advanced driving simulators. Support from industry, including a further £1 million of funding, has been gained to begin research projects with the new technology led by research students embedded in Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), bringing the total cost of the simulator and its research programme to £4.2 million.

In its first phase the simulator will be tested and piloted in WMG’s International Manufacturing Centre before moving to its final home in the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC).

The simulator, which will be available to a range of research groups, will use a LIDAR scan (essentially a high resolution laser scan of an environment) of 30 miles of real roads around the City of Coventry to test vehicles in the simulator. While the simulator will use a fixed test car for many tests it will also be configured so that any make of car can be driven into the simulator for testing which is believed to be a unique capability for such an advanced simulator.

“I am particularly looking forward to using this advanced simulator to better understand the use of smart and connected vehicles in a safe virtual environment," says WMG researcher Professor Paul Jennings. "We want to help our industry partners accelerate the introduction of this exciting technology, so that we can all reap the many benefits as soon as possible. Some of the new technologies we will be testing will help reduce congestion and improve driver and passenger safety and comfort”

Researchers in WMG’s Cyber Security Centre will also use the technology to research the cyber security of vehicles to ensure that our increasingly computerised cars have the maximum resilience and protection against the possibility of cyber attacks in the future.

“Modern cars have more computing power and greater connectivity than ever before. Drivers rely on this technology far more than many realise," says Professor Carsten Maple, Professor of Cyber Systems Engineering at WMG’s Cyber Security Centre. "It is our aim to make vehicles as secure and trustworthy as possible, and this simulator will provide a unique opportunity to test both the vehicle and the human interaction with it. We have seen major advances in the safety of vehicles, and it is now vital we improve the security of these smart vehicles.”

Some of the research projects already lined up for the simulator will look at: the concept of 'self-learning cars'; enhancing driver experience by removing the repetitive, everyday tasks (such as setting a common Satnav destination or tuning to your favourite radio station); methods of recognising common passengers and their needs; and even how to tune the car to respond to the emotional state of the driver. These projects will test new technologies while accounting for the likely behaviour of a driver and the passengers in a way that otherwise would only be possible on-road.

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