Private vehicle hire specialist Addison Lee has joined forces with self-driving software specialist Oxbotica in a bid to offer self-driving cars in London by 2021. Under the agreement, the two companies will work together on the development, deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles with a view to providing customers with self-driving services in the capital in three years’ time. 

As the first step of the project, Oxbotica will begin mapping more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around London from November, using its technology to create advanced digital maps of public roads in and around the capital. These maps will record the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light in preparation for the deployment of autonomous cars. 

Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said, “This represents a huge leap towards bringing autonomous vehicles into mainstream use on the streets of London, and eventually in cities across the United Kingdom and beyond. 

“Our partnership with Addison Lee Group represents another milestone for the commercial deployment of our integrated autonomous vehicle and fleet management software systems in complex urban transport conditions. Together, we are taking a major step in delivering the future of mobility.”

Self-driving cars have been hailed as the future of the ride-hailing industry as well as a way to reduce traffic accidents and this is not the first partnership of a similar nature that has been announced recently.

Oxbotica is currently leading a ‘Driven’ consortium, and has already launched a fleet of vehicles currently running autonomously in public trials in London and Oxford. Meanwhile, a self-driving taxi has successfully taken paying passengers through Tokyo streets, raising the prospect that the service will be ready in time to transport athletes and tourists between sports venues and the city centre during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The news follows Volvo signing an agreement with Uber to sell tens of thousands of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021. 

Volvo’s engineers worked together with engineers from Uber to develop the XC90 premium SUVs that were supplied to the ride-sharing firm. The vehicles incorporated all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies that are required for Uber to add its own self-driving technology.

But the partnership has not come without its hurdles, with an autonomous Uber XC90 having collided with a pedestrian in Arizona during trials. The fatal crash resulted in Uber temporarily suspending self-driving car tests in all cities in the US and Canada. 

Meanwhile, other manufacturers including Ford and General Motors are also investing in the development of self-driving vehicles. Almost a dozen separate trials involving driverless vehicles are also ongoing in the UK, in areas including Bristol, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Oxford and Greenwich in London. 

Andy Boland, CEO of Addison Lee Group, said, “Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next ten years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now.

“Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the transport challenges we face. By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles. We are proud to be partnering with a British technology pioneer and leader in autonomous vehicle technology, Oxbotica, and together we will continue our British success story in how we revolutionise the way people get around cities.”