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The UK autonomous technology group Oxbotica and TRL have piloted the use of the first Code of Practice for the safe and cost-effective deployment of autonomous vehicles in unstructured off-highway environments, with a live trial conducted in a quarry using a number of off-road vehicles.

The consortium has developed and demonstrated capabilities to adapt and retrofit autonomy, using robust low-cost sensors, to any vehicle, as well as drafting a Code of Practice that identifies the key elements for safe and efficient deployment of autonomous vehicles in off-road industries.

Oxbotica and TRL deployed a Ford Ranger and Range Rover Evoque, retrofitted with Oxbotica’s autonomy software platform, in a UK quarry in April, 2021. The vehicles were fitted with a full suite of sensors, including LiDAR, RADAR, and stereo cameras.

Off-road environments, which can include mines, quarries, farms, refineries, warehouses, ports, and airports, feature more varied hazards and less structured scenarios than on-road settings with no universal highway rules, such as speed limits or junction etiquette.

Ben Upcroft, VP of Technology at Oxbotica, says: “Our autonomy software platform is capable of being integrated with any vehicle, in any environment. In order to harness the true power of this technology, operational regulations need to be developed in unison to ensure safe and efficient deployment. Consortiums such as this are a key stepping stone in ensuring the safe operation of autonomous vehicles in complex scenarios, and enabling the scale up to full commercial deployment in industry settings.”

Dr Ianto Guy, Project Lead at TRL, adds: “This Code of Practice seeks to provide high-level guidance to organisations, in all sectors of the off-highway industry, on the ways in which working practices should be adapted to ensure that the adoption of autonomy is as smooth and safe as possible. The aim is that this code will support safe practice, build public confidence, and encourage the cooperation between organisations across all industries employing off-highway autonomous vehicles. It is hoped that off-highway industries will use this code of practice as a starting point for discussion and build on the recommendations made here to develop comprehensive best practice guidelines.”

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TRL is a global centre for innovation in transport and mobility. It provides world-leading research, technology and software solutions for surface transport modes and related markets engaged in intelligent, new mobility innovations.

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