CRANFIELD, England (Reuters) – A Nissan car has completed a 230-mile journey autonomously in Britain, the longest and most complex such trip in the country as carmakers race to develop driverless technologies which are revolutionising travel.
Britain has been wooing developers of autonomous vehicles, hoping to grab a slice of an industry it estimates could be worth around 900 billion pounds ($1.2 trillion) worldwide in 2035.
The Nissan LEAF vehicle undertook the 370 km journey from the Japanese carmaker’s European technical center in Cranfield, southern England, to its Sunderland factory in the north east, alongside conventional road users.
It included roads with no or minimal markings, junctions, roundabouts and motorways, using advanced positioning technology helped by GPS, radar and light detection and ranging equipment, allowing vehicles to navigate roads and obstacles.
“The … project allowed us to develop an autonomous vehicle that can tackle challenges encountered on UK roads that are unique to this part of the world, such as complex roundabouts and high-speed country lanes with no road markings, white lines or kerbs,” said Nissan Technical Centre Project Manager Bob Bateman.
The project, known as HumanDrive and led by Nissan as part of a consortium, also received government funding.
Nissan has previously said Britain’s flexible approach to testing autonomous vehicles helped it pick London for its first European tests in 2017 when a driverless vehicle traveled up to 50 miles per hour.
But the advancement of self-driving cars around the world has been hampered by safety concerns and problems regarding insurance liability.
“Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is an incredible achievement for Nissan and the HumanDrive consortium, and a huge step towards the rollout of driverless cars on UK streets,” said junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Editing by Stephen Addison