Private hire firm Addison Lee is looking to put fully autonomous taxis on the streets of London by 2021.
A partnership with software company Oxbotica will see them work together on developing, testing and operating the vehicles, exploring “self-driving car services that are safe and environmentally friendly, and which still deliver the exceptional customer experiences Addison Lee is known for,” said the taxi company.
The British firms will go up against the ride-hailing app Uber, which also intends to use driverless cars. Uber’s programme is well underway, and continues despite one of its autonomous vehicles killing a pedestrian in Arizona in March, although it has ceased testing for the time being.
Addison Lee intends to create detailed digital maps of ‘more than 250,000 miles of roads’ in and around London. They will help the cars navigate not just the road layout but will also point out the location of all kerbs, traffic lights, landmarks and street furniture, helping autonomous vehicles avoid collisions.
The brand points to declining private car ownership, particularly in large cities, as a reason for the move. Andy Boland, chief executive of the Addison Lee Group, said: “Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now.
“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.”
The driverless car industry in the UK will be worth £28bn by 2035, according to government estimates. Many companies worldwide – from car brands such as Ford and General Motors to technology firms such as Google and Dyson and component suppliers such as Bosch – are investing heavily in the science in the hope of being at the forefront of the new market.