Supported by industry partners AutonomouStuff, Quantum, LeddarTech, NXP, Intempora, NovaTel, and other component and software suppliers to the world’s car manufacturers. The first Self Driving Track Days event takes place on 15-16 November at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire, UK.
A first for Europe, these track days for driverless vehicles combine internationally recognised technical expertise from established suppliers to the automotive industry with the exciting prospect of free hands-on training for autonomous vehicle technologies.
Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, co-founder, said he was keen to help bridge the gap between the UK’s outstanding universities, SMEs and major international players. “There’s some outstanding work being done in our academic sector, and likewise in the commercial sector, but British companies mustn’t be complacent or restricted in their thinking of how the automotive industry really works – it’s a global industry and one which, especially during the evolution of driverless vehicles, really is in the hands of entrepreneurs who can bring exciting new approaches and think internationally.”
To reflect the global view, the first event in the UK is part of European Robotics Week, while other upcoming test track and training events will take place in France and Austria.
Each event has a test track chosen to test or support the development of various challenges that autonomous, or driverless vehicles, must face. Test track time is traditionally expensive, causing problems for students and smaller companies as charges take out a big percentage of comparatively small budgets. “We’re not trying to replace existing professional test tracks, just appeal to a very different audience – one which is small, agile and might need a little help to solve problems or meet with like-minded people”
Each event will host training workshops, delivered in close conjunction with industry partners, and based on practical experience, application of skills and technology to solve problems. Free to university students, the course cost is mostly offset by the organisers, but typically cost less than £50 for a day’s training. “These training workshops are not going to meet the same rigour as you’d find in 3-year long academic courses, but they are an ideal introduction for people with some existing knowledge of mechanical or electronic engineering, software development, physics, maths or related fields – to see how their existing skills can be adapted to this rapidly growing international field.”
Alex Lawrence-Berkeley highlighted the relevance of the event content. “We already work with those supporting the established driverless technology industry, the companies that will make autonomous road vehicles possible, so we have a very good understanding of where the industry is now, and where it’s heading.”
“We work closely with engineers, academic researchers and technologists on a regular basis – so we’re talking about innovations and practical applications – we don’t need to talk about regulations or government policy.”
While the first year’s events are scheduled and locations planned, the 2017-2018 series is still in development. New locations and track venues will be added – with several belonging to car manufacturers, and further partnerships are being discussed to enhance the approach into Colleges and Schools, with international membership organisations.
“We are committed to developing this project at both ends of the industry spectrum, to support existing commercial activity, but also connect industry to employees of the future and bring autonomous vehicles into schools through clubs and the formal college curriculum as soon as possible – it’s a really exciting time.”
The test track and training events are supported by a wider series of free networking meetings, touring around the UK and mainland Europe. Having held events already in London and Brussels, and another on 10th November in Loughborough. The networking meetings will also run alongside a special series of free public lectures during UK Robotics Week in 2017.
AutoSens Conference Director, Robert Stead reflected on the close working partnership. “We have worked hard to establish AutoSens as the leading vehicle perception event globally, driven by our desire to develop the community and knowledge sharing across borders, as well as focussing on the technology rather than policy – engineers need practical skills and experience if they want their products to succeed.”
“Self Driving Track Days have the same ethos and we’re delighted to be working hand-in-glove to ensure we can lower costs for innovators, increase employability for graduates and accelerate the creation and adoption of driverless transport.”