A COMPANY based in a former spinning mill built at the height of Yorkshire’s industrial past is fuelling the drive towards technology that is set to revolutionise the world’s transport network.
Set within the heart of Bates Mill, Huddersfield, coding and software specialists Control F1 have been charged with delivering a commercially compelling telematics project that will realise the dream of autonomous transportation.
Supported by a grant of £1.36m from Innovate UK, an agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Control F1 are working with local authorities, car manufacturers and other companies on the cutting edge technology that until recently was the stuff of science fiction.
For Andy Dumbell, Control F1’s managing director, recent advances in telematics - the aggregation and sharing of communication technology such as GPS and 4G - mean that driverless cars could be less than a decade away.
“It’s closer than many people think,” said Mr Dumbell. “There has been some tremendous activity taking place in the field, aided by massive investment around the world.
“A lot of people are working collaboratively to make this happen. There’s still a long way to to, and the car manufacturers still need to work more closely together on sharing their systems, but it’s very achieveable.
“We are thrilled to have the chance to be part of a very exciting project. It’s a recognition of the skill, expertise and reputation for innovation that the team at Control F1 have.”
Using patented technology, Control F1 will devise a system that allows data to be collected and analysed at greater speeds than ever before. That data will be combined with other information such as weather reports, event data and traffic feeds to ease congestion and increase safety through real time updates and route planning.
The Huddersfield company are working with the University of Nottingham, local authorities, car manufacturers and other companies on the i-Motors project that builds on the technology already in existence.
Around 800,000 cars are already equipped with telematic or ‘black box’ technology, which is increased by insurance companies to monitor the way in which young drivers perform on the road. The iMotors project will develop the technology with the aim of connecting cars and other hardware to allow vehicles to be drive using remote intelligence.
Given that many people in more remote areas of Yorkshire still struggle to find a mobile telephone signal, riding safely in a driverless car appears to require a great leap of faith, as does confidence in the nation’s ability to nstal the infrastructure required to make it happen.
However Mr Dumbell has few doubts the hurdles that stand in the way of driverless cars are surmountable.
“One of the technology partners we are working with are developing ‘beyond line of sight’ technology that will allow vehicles to communicate even when traditional technology isn’t available,” he said.
“The military have been using this kind of technology quite a bit with things like drones and adapting it for cars is a natural extension.
“At the end of the day it may be a price issue: the more technology you build into something, the greater your costs become.
“I am not convinced that public spending will be a major limiting factor: some of the drivers behind developing this technology are safer roads and environmental benefits. There’s a lot of reward to be gained from investing now.”
Of the £1.36m grant, the six-strong team of Control F1 developers have been allocated £540,000 which will be supplemented by further investment brought in by the company itself.
Once up and running, the i-Motors technology will be piloted in Sheffield, Coventry and Nottingham, whose city councils are all supporting the project.