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Formula 1 driving simulation technology could help put the UK on the fast track to self-driving vehicles

A new research programme by WMG at the University of Warwick, and XPI Simulation, co-funded by Innovate UK, is examining the potential for applying the simulation technology used to train Formula 1® drivers for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles. The market for such vehicles is expected to reach £52 billion by 2035, according to government figures.

The new research could dramatically reduce the time to market, helping manufacturers to achieve the UK government’s vision for self-driving vehicles to be operating on our roads as early as 2021.

Several manufacturers are already testing their vehicles on public roads, with mixed results. One of the problems is the volume and repeatability of testing. Carrying out such testing on controlled tracks or on-road presents significant cost and safety challenges – as well as requiring huge amounts of mileage to be driven to gather evidence.

WMG, at the University of Warwick and XPI, a subsidiary of Thales UK, believe that simulation technology similar to that used to train motorsport drivers, could be used to test every function and response of self-driving vehicles under all conceivable conditions. If successful, it would be an important step towards gathering sufficient data to certify autonomous cars as safe to share the roads with ordinary traffic.

A key challenge with creating such a simulator would be ensuring that it represented the real world with a suitable level of accuracy – much like civil flight simulators today, which are certified before they can be used for formal pilot training. XPI, WMG and Thales will work to develop an understanding of the requirements of such a simulator – potentially enabling the development of common standards that enable the use of such software for autonomous vehicle certification.

Several applications for autonomous vehicles have been identified, ranging from convenience (such as automated off-site car parking where the car parks itself and comes back when needed), to efficiency (self-driving buses, taxis and lorries, operating 24/7) to life-saving (self-driving vehicles which can cope with extreme weather conditions).

Professor Paul Jennings of WMG said,

“The introduction of safe, fully autonomous vehicles will bring enormous societal benefits and substantial economic opportunities. Partnerships between academia and industry, supported by the government, are the best way to overcome the many challenges ahead.”

Commenting on the award of funding by Innovate UK, a government organisation set up to help businesses realise the potential of new technologies, XPI’s product specialist Timothy Coley, said,

“In order to reap the benefits of self-driving vehicles, the public must have independent validation of their safety, robustness and reliability. We cannot compromise on safety.”

This latest round of funding brings the total government investment in the development of autonomous vehicles to £120 million, in a portfolio worth £180 million, which benefits industry and academia as well as the wider population.

Notes for Editors

About WMG

WMG is a world leading research and education group and an academic department of the University of Warwick, established by Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya in 1980 in order to reinvigorate UK manufacturing through the application of cutting edge research and effective knowledge transfer.

WMG has pioneered an international model for working with industry, commerce and public sectors and holds a unique position between academia and industry. The Group’s strength is to provide companies with the opportunity to gain a competitive edge by understanding a company’s strategy and working in partnership with them to create, through multidisciplinary research, ground-breaking products, processes and services.

Every year WMG provides education and training to schoolchildren through to senior executives. There is a growing part-time undergraduate programme for apprentices, as well as full-time undergraduates. The postgraduate programmes have over 2,000 students, in the UK and through centres in China, India, Thailand, South Africa and Malaysia.

About XPI Simulation

XPI Simulation is a Thales-owned company which designs and manufactures a range of driving simulators ranging from desktop solutions through to full-scale converted vehicles for commercial, military and institutional clients. Its products and services are used by the UK Ministry of Defence, the emergency services, Transport for London, Formula 1™ teams, road safety agencies and UK academic institutions.

About Thales

Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Transport, Defence and Security markets. With 62,000 employees in 56 countries, Thales reported sales of €16.5 billion in 2016. With over 22,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design and deploy equipment, systems and services to meet the most complex security requirements. Its exceptional international footprint allows it to work closely with its customers all over the world.

Thales in the UK has over 6,500 employees, 3500 of these being highly skilled engineers. Operating across 12 key sites, Thales makes it a priority to support research, development and innovation in the UK. Thales delivered over £450m of exports in 2015 and is focused on growing its footprint with an export lead strategy, drawing on global investment to secure business growth in the UK over the next five years.

For further information please contact:

Lisa Barwick, Head of Marketing and Communications, WMG,
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 524721 or 07824 540845


Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Media Relations, University of Warwick,
Tel UK: 024 76523708 office 07767 655860 mobile
Tel Overseas: +44 (0)24 76523708 office +44 (0)7767 655860 mobile/cell

PR PJD 16th August 2018