Driverless vehicle technology wins this year’s Award for Innovation

Oxbotica – the dynamic, Oxford-based autonomous vehicle software company – was the winner of this year’s Barclays Award for Innovation at our Enterprise Awards in June. CEO Graeme Smith collected the prize at the gala dinner in Oxford (see photo above).

Oxbotica has developed an autonomous control system – called Selenium – that uses patented algorithms to help cars understand their immediate environment. It is not a driverless vehicle as such but the robotic brain that can run one. The technology can work on all things that move, whether it’s a forklift truck, warehouse robot or self-driving public transport vehicle. The system can be uploaded to standard vehicles and can operate on roads as well as pedestrianised areas. It has now been tested in both rural and urban areas in London, Oxford and Milton Keynes and can be used in a wide range of applications – warehousing, logistics, rail, transport and infrastructure management. Oxbotica is at the forefront of this disruptive technology and some say challenging the Silicon Valley tech giants. Take a peek at their YouTube video here.

A relatively new kid on the block, Oxbotica is a 2014 spin out from Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI) – a recognised leader in the field of autonomous vehicles. It was co-founded by Oxford’s very own Paul Newman, Professor of Information Engineering and Professor Ingmar Posner, an Associate Professor in the same department. They met as research students at Oxford in 2003 and decided to pool their efforts to develop autonomous technology that could recognise location and surroundings. The resulting company, Oxbotica, was founded in 2014 and now has three offices across Oxfordshire, including a testing facility at Culham Science Park and a new office in Summertown. They bought in Dr Graeme Smith as CEO to run the day-to-day business. He led carmaker Ford’s telematics division and is an inventor himself.

The company now has a fleet of six autonomous vehicles and has just been awarded funding to lead a £13 million project, DRIVEN, that will see a fleet of autonomous vehicles driving between Oxford and London in 2019.  They will operate at level 4 autonomy – meaning they have the capability of performing safety-critical driving functions and monitoring roadway conditions for an entire trip with no passengers. This is a first: a trial of this level has never been attempted anywhere else in the world!

Oxbotica is also involved in providing the GATEway project in Greenwich with their cloud-hosted fleet management system, which includes the CargoPod – an autonomous last-mile delivery vehicle. And there’s more: off-road autonomous driving with Range Rover Evoque; autonomous forklift trucks in warehouses; software for survey and localisation companies and some of its positioning technology will be incorporated into the next European Mars Rover. How cool is that!

Oxbotica is shaping the future of driverless vehicles. It is companies like this that shine a light on Oxford and our vibrant innovation ecosystem, and means we can say “It all started in Oxford.” A deserving winner of this year’s Award for Innovation.