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An alliance of British entrepreneurs and academics is launching a new company aimed at improving the safety of driverless cars.
Open Street Car, which will launch in London in May, will focus on making vehicles that will know where they are, navigate nearby roads and enable autonomous vehicles on the road to be more efficient, faster and easier to operate.
Its software will be integrated with vehicles and be delivered through a secure system known as a cloud by leading European vehicle manufacturers and its members, including Ford, Mobileye, Aptiv and Jaguar Land Rover.
“We are creating an open environment for drivers to benefit from safe, reliable and [enabling] affordable autonomous vehicles,” said Gareth Morgan, Open Street Car’s chief executive. “Since the technology has a ready-made ecosystem of partners, our main investment focus is on developing the software and safety platforms of the future.”
Mr Morgan argues that the UK has a better mix of academic expertise and enterprise than any other country. Yet UK governments have been reluctant to back autonomous vehicles, which have been beset by problems and which only recently have proven robust enough to be cleared for widespread use.
UK ministers have set an April deadline for the testing of fully autonomous vehicles on public roads. Unsurprisingly, there are no plans for legislation to address liability issues for accidents involving self-driving cars, although that has come up in other countries.
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Estimates for the market for autonomous vehicles range from $100bn to $1tn by 2030.
Ford and Mobileye said they were interested in participating in Open Street Car’s wider business. Chief executive James Kunze-Concewitz said: “The self-driving vehicle environment is already evolving quickly and adapting to the drivers of the future,” and Open Street Car was a natural ally in its quest to “see and know all”.
Despite its efforts, the UK does not have a large domestic autonomous vehicle market. The country’s only autonomous testbed so far is the F-Pace. Mr Morgan said Open Street Car will “partner with a strategic partner to introduce a number of high-volume software-based products”. He added that it was initially focusing on digital connectivity, with the aim of bringing autonomous vehicle technology to owners in London and other major cities.