Autonomous vehicles are set to become part of everyday life. From driverless passenger cars to parcel delivery drones to swarms of freight trucks, autonomous vehicles are poised to disrupt several key industries—according to IEEE estimates, by 2040 75% of all vehicles will be fully autonomous, delivering annual savings of $80bn worldwide. But the promise of economic growth and societal change they will bring is contingent on the way in which these vehicles will be organised; they are not a silver bullet by themselves.
Most of the initial research has rightfully focused on the technical aspects of replacing human drivers, comparatively little effort has been put into understanding how to optimise entire vehicle fleets. Individual vehicles with simple behaviours interact in complex and often unpredictable ways, giving rise to emergent behaviour patterns at the city level. A solution based on strong simulation becomes critical to optimise both short-term behaviour and long-term strategy at the fleet level.
To this effect, Improbable has successfully applied for £2m funding from Innovate UK in collaboration with a newly founded company (Immense Simulations Ltd). The project will take the existing research in cooperative routing, fleet operations, predictive vehicle health management and real time traffic management, and create a solution built on SpatialOS to support both strategic decision making and real-time operational control of the fleet.
Creating a large-scale, real-time digital replica of a city is essential to maximise the efficiency of a fleet of autonomous vehicles. SpatialOS makes it possible for developers to model urban environments at large scale while not compromising on fidelity at small scale, and remaining within real-time constraints to react instantly to shifting traffic patterns or support just-in-time logistics, a critical requirement for operational control.
We’re excited to see how this project will impact the development of autonomous vehicles, and for how strong simulation will shape the future of our cities.