London’s Smart Mobility Living Laboratory proving ground is operational and testing CAVs in a real urban environment
The London based CAV testbed brings together technology, public infrastructure and transport experts to provide a unique testing ground, part of the next step to place the UK at the centre of the future mobility revolution.
The Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL) has become the first Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) testbed to fully open its doors to customers. Designed to accelerate the commercialisation of market-ready future transport and mobility systems, SMLL is the place to go for advanced real-world CAV and new mobility testing. The facility will enable international technology and service providers to study an entire connected transport environment which is an essential step to make their products and services market-ready. This includes organisations from traditionally unrelated sectors such as energy, retail and communications. At a time when CAV technology is set to play a major role in the exciting transport revolution happening in the UK, SMLL is ready to help accelerate transport transformation initiatives across the nation.
The road to an automated transport future is governed by the level of trust existing among users and the wider community. Only a programme of rigorous and transparent testing will provide a robust safety case. Innovations are already available to improve the performance of drivers by enhancing their road awareness and subsequently the safety of other road users. Whilst these new measures are already becoming integrated into car design, a new generation of connected vehicles are also set to revolutionise the way people consume transport, and travel around efficiently, with many new business models in rapid development.
To drive the commercialisation of the proving ground, TRL has appointed Carlota Da Veiga Pestana to the team to lead the commercial success of the testbed. “Carlota will be pivotal in taking the SMLL concept – built by a consortium and part funded by government – and making it a core component of the TRL portfolio” said Lucien Linders, General Manager of SMLL.
Customers can access any of TRL’s consultancy and technical services via SMLL, and the testbed itself is a vital component in the delivery of many of TRL’s projects. With its services based around the three integrated pillars of Test, Simulate and Innovate, SMLL and its partners provide a compelling offering to the global marketplace of companies racing to exploit the potential of new mobility technologies and solutions.
Compared to other testbeds in the world SMLL is unique and offers many advantages. The London facility provides a diverse, challenging and advanced connected urban environment for CAV and wider mobility system development and testing.
According to Linders, the two styles of road which form the testbeds in Greenwich and at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park locations provide environments which are totally unconstrained. Overall, the testbed is 24km of urban roads which are closely monitored by instrumentation, featuring both single and multi-lane carriageways, including roundabouts and 40+ other types of road features common to UK-road infrastructure, resulting in the most comprehensive CAV and CAM testing site there is.
“We have opened at a time when the demand for transport innovation is intensifying. The need for decarbonisation, alongside initiatives including increasing shared mobility, and new ways of moving goods about, have brought the requirement for SMLL to the forefront of the transport agenda. Despite the impact of Covid-19, because the testbed is a live environment, it is genuinely ‘open for business’ and we are confident we can deliver vehicle and technology trials safely. Our Innovation Community events may have to remain virtual for a time, but the collaboration has not stopped and the R&D projects we are involved in are all carrying on,” continues Linders.
The Smart Mobility Living Lab is currently working in support of major CAV projects Endeavour, ServCity and Darwin. These innovation projects are progressing the research and understanding started in GATEWay, then evolved in CAPRI, DRIVEN and HumanDrive. All three are bringing trials of automated vehicles to London because the complexity of the testbed means that if the technology works here, it will work anywhere. In addition, SMLL is providing expertise to help with sensor technology validation, and working with infrastructure and vehicle providers to exploit connectivity with traffic signal data. TRL is also lending its human factors team to assist with studies of pedestrian behaviour around specific road features to understand the implications for the AI systems providing situational awareness of driverless vehicles.
SMLL was built by a consortium, part funded by industry and the Government via CCAV and InnovateUK. It is managed by TRL, supported by DG Cities and London Legacy Development Corporation. SMLL is part of CAM TestbedUK, six core facilities within a three-hour drive offering a comprehensive set of capabilities for the testing and development of connected and automated mobility (CAM) technologies. Funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and coordinated by Zenzic, CAM Testbed UK is able to offer interoperability to customers that is unrivalled worldwide.
TRL leads DiREC programme
TRL has also been appointed Project Management Lead on the “Digital Road for Evolving Connected and Automated Driving” (DiREC) project. A two-year programme that forms part of the CEDR Transnational Research Programme (TRP), TRL will also be providing technical support to a number of the work packages involved.
The DiREC project will establish a CAV-Ready Framework (CRF) for infrastructure to address the ability of highway infrastructure to support Connected and Automated Driving (CAD). The CRF will provide a common vision for improved engagement between National Road Authorities (NRAs), service providers and OEMs and will include tools to help NRAs understand the costs and benefits of delivering different types of infrastructure service to support CAD.
Alex Wright, Chief Technologist at TRL, explains further: “DiREC provides a framework for NRAs to develop innovative strategies to meet the challenges presented by Connected and Automated Driving on their networks. We believe that establishing a CAV-Ready Framework will put the spotlight on what is important to NRAs and their partners when planning the adaptation of their own infrastructure.”
The CRF will establish a clear pathway to help NRAs and other stakeholders make measurable progress to achieve their goals for infrastructure that is ready for CAD. Through this programme, TRL will help NRAs to prepare for the requirements in a targeted and proactive manner.
As the levels of CAD increase, there will be greater demand for road networks to provide additional infrastructure and services to improve safety and reduce congestion. The DiREC programme aims to provide a clear picture of the risks, opportunities, impacts, responsibilities, and liabilities surrounding CAD, outlining a clear roadmap to address these alongside the tools to measure the progress being made towards Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV)-ready networks.
Other members of the consortium include Technische Universiteit Delft (TUI), Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL), Arup, Statens väg- och transportforskningsinstitut (VTI) and the Technical Research Center of Finland Ltd (VTT).