Move over, big business — academia is here to join the fray. Proving just how ubiquitous smart car technology has truly become, Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group, Oxbotica, is now staking its claim in the autonomous car territory. Its new Selenium software will take on the behemoths of the industry, including Google, Tesla, and Uber, all of which have invested significant resources in developing driverless cars over the last few years.
Oxbotica and its new project is partially funded by the government of the United Kingdom, and is in search of automakers who will help implement Selenium in their cars. And the main draw of this new technology, Oxford says, is that it goes beyond the traditional sensor and laser setup that most autonomous vehicles currently employ. Rather, a robotic “brain” is responsible for the entire self-driving system, allowing it to not only interpret data, but continue to learn and improve over time.
Already, Oxbotica says its cutting edge software is in play in a variety of applications: Warehouse forklifts, mining trucks, and even NASA’s Mars rover has made use of Selenium in some capacity, so it only makes sense that cars come next.
The plan for now is to begin testing “driverless pods” in Greenwich and Milton Keynes. “In Greenwich, London, the company’s technology will power driverless taxi pods for use in pedestrianized areas,” the Financial Times reports. And ultimately, testing may become as robust in the U.K. as it has in the United States, where Google has been placing self-driving cars on the roads across a number of American cities.
“We love those guys [Google], because they made the market possible. They introduced this brilliantly into the public’s conception of what’s coming in the future,” said Oxbotica founder Paul Newman. “But first to the market does not equal first for all time. We’re talking about all things that move for all time. There’s not going to be one guy that does that for all time.” And while Oxbotica may be the newest guy on the block, that’s no reason to discount it.