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The UK self-driving vehicles startups on cusp of transport revolution

Driverless car UK

At the CES technology conference in January 2021, Transport Minister Rachel Maclean outlined that the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) market in the UK could be worth £41.7 billion by 2035.

These developments could, in turn, create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in the CAV technology area. Simultaneously, the Britain government has already invested £200 million into CAV research and development, helping British startups develop their tech for use both in the UK and internationally.

CAV technologies have the potential to revolutionise transport. Designed in the right way, a system of connected autonomous vehicles could make the transport network more accessible, safer, more efficient and better for the environment. 

Several government-backed CAV trials have also successfully demonstrated world-leading capabilities in recent years, such as the Streetwise project in London in 2019, which saw self-driving vehicles carrying commuters to and from work. With that in mind, we take a look at the most ambitious startups in the UK, all set to hit the roads with their greener and robust technologies.

Five

HQ: Cambridge

Founder/s: Stan Boland, John Redford, Ben Peters, and Simon Walker

Funding: £61.5M

Founded: 2015

Competing internationally with some of the world’s largest self-driving vehicle companies, Five offers cloud-based development and assurance platform that helps automotive companies and their suppliers to speed up the development and testing of automated driving systems whilst reducing the cost. 

Notably, in 2019, Five attracted UK government support for StreetWise, a project to develop, integrate, test, and demonstrate a highly functional fully autonomous system in London. 

Oxbotica

HQ: Oxford

Founder/s: Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner

Funding: £60M

Founded: 2014

Oxbotica is developing the next generation of autonomous vehicles – creating a software that makes them go.

Using state of art computer vision and machine learning, their systems learn from their environment and share experiences. 

The company’s solution powers navigation, perception, user interface, fleet management, and other features needed to run self-driving vehicles in multiple environments.

Further, in 2020, Oxbotica launched Project Endeavour, which will be running highly automated trials in Oxford, London and Birmingham. The project will demonstrate automated driving in a variety of urban and city environments and will develop models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for the future launch of automated vehicle services.

StreetDrone

HQ: Oxford

Founder/s: Mark Preston and Mike Potts

Funding: NA

Founded: 2017

Autonomous vehicle specialists StreetDrone is reportedly developing a fleet of 5G-connected autonomous trucks to help move parts and assemblies to Nissan’s Sunderland plant from local suppliers. The company is currently working on a project called 5G Connected and Autonomous Logistics (5G CAL) to assess how the technology can help to bring more efficiency into industrial supply chain operations.

The consortium also received a 5G Create grant from the UK government to develop the project last year. The 5G Create scheme is an open competition within the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme offered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. Reportedly, up to £30 million of government funding is being made available to explore and develop new use-cases and 5G technical capabilities.

Wayve

HQ: Cambridge

Founder/s: Alex Kendall and Amar Shah

Funding: £15.6M

Founded: 2017

Wayve is a startup dedicated to accelerating autonomous mobility through learning-based approaches instead of hand-coded rules and is working on a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles for central London.

Prominent VC including Eclipse Ventures, Balderton Capital, Compound, Fly Ventures and firstminute capital as well as several undisclosed preeminent leaders in machine learning and robotics have put money in the UK startup.

Besides startups, there have been few collaborations as well to help improve and level up transport across the country.

Flourish

Bristol-based Flourish is a multi-sector collaboration that helps to advance the successful implementation of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in the UK.

The three-year project was worth £5.5 million and was co-funded between industry and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). It was delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. 

Notably, it was part of the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund, supporting the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge.

The FLOURISH car trials focused on the optimum conditions for the effective wireless transfer of data between vehicles and with the roadside infrastructure.

Zenzic

Zenzic is another public-private collaboration to promote connected and autonomous mobility (CAM) in the UK

Channelling £200 million of investment, the company brings together industry, government, and academia to cement the UK’s standing in autonomous vehicle development and deliver a 2030 roadmap to guide key decision-makers, policy-makers, and future investors.

Last year, the company also launched CAM Scale-Up Programme, calling on innovative self-driving technology SMEs and startups, based out of the UK.