TMETC has demonstrated its technology prowess by developing a roadworthy vehicle capable of level 3 autonomy

Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) revealed its commitment in helping to shape the future of mobility, as it completed a three-year project into connected and autonomous vehicle technology.

Co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, the UK Autodrive project brought together 15 partners including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), cutting-edge engineering businesses, academia and progressive councils to explore the impact of Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES) technology, in a safe and controlled setting.

As the UK centre of excellence in design and engineering for the Tata Motors passenger car and commercial vehicle business in India, the Coventry-based TMETC demonstrated how its expertise has enabled the business to safely test emerging technology on public roads in a real-world environment.

From having virtually no autonomy technology to developing a roadworthy vehicle capable of level 3 autonomy is a huge progress made by TMETC in the autonomous vehicle technology development.

The Tata HEXA SUV, which was launched to the Indian market in 2017, was selected to showcase the company’s autonomous technology. The car’s spacious interior provided ample room to accommodate the necessary hardware equipment as well as having enough space for engineers and visitors to travel in comfort.

Mark Sealy, head of engineering and technology explains: “We were delighted to be part of the UK Autodrive project, which has enabled us to advance our technology into connectivity and autonomous vehicles. It has created a platform for us to cultivate our expertise on the future of mobility, as well as testing the technology on public roads in Coventry and Milton Keynes.

“Our primary market is in India; whose mobility requirements are different to the UK. India is likely to embrace connected, electric and shared technology sooner than its counterparts so our participation in projects like the UK Autodrive is essential to ensure we remain at the forefront of these developments,” said Mark.

As the UK has already published a code of practice for testing autonomous vehicles safely and legally, this provided the ideal guidelines for TMETC to challenge the capabilities of our self-driving vehicle.

Vehicles were equipped with high precision GPS as well as numerous other sensors and cameras capable of sensing the vehicles’ surroundings.

Radar units, LiDAR scanners (Light Detection and Ranging) and cameras were used to gather data, building up a detailed 360° picture of the world around the car. The perception process interpreted the data, detecting road lanes, terrain classification and obstacles, such as people.

The system planning algorithms decoded both static behaviours due to stop and giveaway signs, and dynamic behaviours due to changing traffic lights and moving obstacles. The trajectory tracking then generated an obstacle free path which the vehicle could follow.

The detailed data was fed through to the vehicle’s motion control which operates the robotic steering wheel, braking and acceleration pedal allowing the vehicle to move safely.

Mark continued: “When developing the vehicle’s architecture, we chose to combine our team’s expertise with standardised system tools. This approach gave us greater flexibility enabling us to have more control of the vehicle’s development, so we could adjust the system quicker as we gained learnings and understanding of the vehicles performance.”

Mark added: “We encountered several challenges during the programme with regards to real-time locations, route planning and obstacle avoidance decision making. Each time we gathered valuable learnings helping to build a more robust system and improve the vehicle’s performances.

“However, it is often the unpredictable behaviour of other road users and pedestrians that has been most challenging.

“These projects not only position the business at the forefront of mobility but also create opportunities for our team to expand their expertise.”

Lead Autonomous Control Engineer, Dr Mark Tucker remarked that he was thrilled to have been working on cutting-edge technology that will improve safety, congestion and efficiency on the roads.

While Principal Autonomous Control Engineer, Eliot Dixon commented that UK Autodrive was an exciting project that will have a massive effect on people worldwide, increasing safety, comfort and convenience enabling mobility for many more people.

Mark Sealy added: “Although some aspects of autonomy already exist in production cars, the reality of fully autonomous vehicles on the public roads will require the collaboration of insurance companies, OEMs and governing bodies for cities and communities for a cost-effective business model to be available to consumers.

“While this technology will help shape the future of societal mobility challenges, make roads safer, travel greener and more efficient, there is also work on public acceptance.

“The UK Autodrive project has helped to begin addressing these challenges and enabled us to advance in our strategy in the mobility revolution. Our plans are to focus our learnings and future developments on controlled road environments,” concluded Mark.

Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) is a subsidiary of Tata Motors, created as a UK-based centre of excellence for automotive design and engineering, located at the University of Warwick. TMETC provides research and development principally for Tata Motors but also for selected partners in the automotive industry.