Taxi firm Addison Lee Group has partnered with automotive tech firm Oxbotica to launch a self-driving taxi service in London by 2021.
The companies plan to create digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital.
They will include the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light, in readiness for the deployment of autonomous cars in the city.
Addison Lee is aiming to gain a share of the autonomous vehicle technology market, which the government forecasts to be worth £28bn in the UK by 2035.
Addison chief executive Andy Boland said the company intended to be at the forefront of change within a transport industry anticipating the introduction of self-driving services.
He said: “Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport. By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles.”
In a bid to keep up with Uber, Addison Lee has expanded rapidly into the US, snapping up rival Flyte Tyme as well as boosting its global reach by buying Tristar Worldwide, which operates in 80 countries.
Owned by US private equity firm Carlyle Group, Addison Lee was founded in Battersea, London in 1975 and has grown to become Europe’s largest private hire car service company, carrying out 10 million journeys per year.
Overcoming public safety fears
Russell Goodenough, Client Managing Director, Transport Sector, at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said: “The future of transport is notoriously difficult to predict; however we’re seeing a clear move towards increasingly connected and autonomous cars becoming the norm in just a few years’ time. This presents an exciting challenge for those investing in the transportation sector. However, it’s clear that driverless cars throw up serious questions, including how we ensure a safe for their operation, does road infrastructure need to be updated to accommodate increasingly sophisticated vehicles, who is liable for insurance claims, and how can we ensure autonomous cars are not vulnerable to hacking or cyber attack.
“Our latest research found that while 88% of the public believe technology is driving societal change, and half believe that change is overwhelmingly positive, there are some areas of tech that they remain unsure about. For example, two-fifths would not be happy to be picked up by a self-driving car due to security and safety, whilst less than 1-in-5 would feel okay putting their child in a driverless car on their own for the school run.
“It is crucial that we begin to address these issues today. Driverless cars could boost UK productivity by enabling employees to work while commuting, as well as reduce accidents on the road and the amount of land needed for parking. But, it’s up to everyone in the transport sector to come together to agree exactly how this technology will work in the UK.”