Innovate UK project to develop autonomous driving system for Charge electric trucks

Charge Automotive has won Innovate UK backing to help develop autonomous driving functionality for its new range of electric freight vehicles.

Dubbed Robopilot, the project will see Charge leading a consortium (see box, below) to bring autonomous racing technology to the light commercial vehicle market.

Robopilot combines input from sensors around the vehicle – such as radars, cameras, ultrasonics and lidars (light sensors to measure the distance to a target object) – with mapping, artificial intelligence and fleet information, which is then acted on by autonomous software.

The technology has already undergone “rigorous simulation, internal testing as well as public demonstrations”, according to Victoria Tomlinson, head of PR & communications at Charge Automotive.

She added: “The road environment is complex: simulation, verification and validation, and physical testing in controlled environments, in conjunction with our project partners, will take place before road trials begin.”

Robopilot features in the second wave of projects from a £35m joint Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK competition launched last autumn.

The Oxfordshire-based firm plans to bring a range of affordable, zero-emission freight trucks to the market that will be priced in line with traditional diesel counterparts.

Earlier this month, Charge signed a 15-year lease on a manufacturing facility in Banbury Cross, with the first trucks in the 3.5-tonne to 26-tonne range expected to roll off the production line later this year.

Commenting on the recent competition funding, Tomlinson told Freight in the City: “It is great to be at the forefront of the advancement of driverless technology in the UK and for that to be acknowledged by Innovate UK.”

Charge Automotive is backed by investment firm Kinetik.

Consortium partners

  • Charge Automotive
  • UPS UK
  • Thales UK
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of West of England
  • South Gloucesterhire Council
  • Test and Verification Solutions
  • AXA UK