The Autonomist

Millbrook opens test facility for driverless cars

Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, UK, has unveiled a special test facility for driverless cars.

The Autonomous Village is a 585 square metre facility which has been built to help start-ups and others to test and develop connected and autonomous vehicles. It was opened on the first day of the co-located Cenex-LCV and Cenex-Connected Automated Mobility events by the UK Minister of State for the Future of Transport, George Freeman.

The Autonomous Village comprises six purpose-built workshops built to support mechanical, integration and software development for self-driving vehicles, from passenger cars to buses.

‘Whatever the application, the convenience of being able to do mechanical work on the vehicle, download and process data and run directly onto the test tracks and private roads, all from the same location, is invaluable for customers’, Millbrook said in a statement.

Millbrook, built by General Motors for its Vauxhall brand in the 1960s and still one of Europe’s largest test centres, has 70 kilometres of secure test tracks, a private, 5G-enabled mobile network and supporting physical and virtual infrastructure. Movies such as Casino Royale have been filmed at the centre.

The large dark grey building which is part of the Autonomous Village

Part of the 585 square metre Autonomous Village test facilty at Millbrook Proving Ground

Customers run a range of test routes around the site, with varying levels of complexity (including through moving test environments created using synchronised ADAS targets), and can analyse the data either at the end of the route or in real time.

Using the virtual Millbrook Proving Ground, the data can be used to create tailored simulations to advance software development.

Millbrook has a simulator suite on site for safety driver training and in-depth analysis.

Millbrook also supports customers with hardware requirements. It has a range of reference vehicles, driving robots and vehicle and road user targets, all used to develop vehicle control algorithms and refine self-driving software.

At the official opening, Minister of State for the Future of Transport, George Freeman, told the gathering: ‘The UK’s long term potential for self-driving vehicles is huge, and could help improve road safety, tackle loneliness and create economic opportunity.

‘The UK’s first autonomous village will be the perfect location for dedicated development and the safe testing of self-driving technology. I commend Millbrook for leading the way in helping take autonomous vehicles from testing centres to the road.’

Daniel Ruiz, Zenzic CEO, told the press: ‘The Autonomous Village delivers world-class facilities for testing self-driving vehicles and is an instrumental part of Testbed UK, which is coordinated by Zenzic.

'The unique set of environments and facilities that comprise Testbed UK are the only places worldwide where ideas can be taken from concept to development all within a three-hour drive.’

Alex Burns, President of Millbrook, said: ‘We’re committed to providing flexible, efficient workspaces for our customers, equipped to meet all their test and development needs.

‘The official opening of our Autonomous Village is an exciting step forward in connected and self-driving vehicle development in the UK.’

The test bed is co-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Zenzic, as part of the ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Test Beds’ competition.

In addition to the facilities at Millbrook Proving Ground, the Millbrook-Culham Urban Test Bed offers 10 kilometres of roads and purpose-built workspaces on the secure United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority site at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire.

The over 2,000-strong adult population on site enables testing to capture human aspects of real-world operation for CAVs, extending to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), in a semi-controlled and safe way.

Dr Rob Buckingham, RACE’s Director, said: ‘The opening of the Autonomous Village is a significant milestone in the development of urban test bed.

The ability of customers to test, according to need, on any element of the 80km of tracks that we collectively manage makes the testbed an unique environment in which to explore the fusion of real-world and simulated environments, real-time connectivity to challenge software, sensor, cyber security system and telecommunications developers.’

By Ray Molony

Markets and Technology Editor

Monday 4 September 2019