A pioneering project has developed technology that could radically reduce the number of multi-vehicle collisions on motorways. The Multi-Car Collision Avoidance (MuCCA) research and development project, has used artificial intelligence (AI) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications to instruct autonomous vehicles to cooperatively make decisions to avoid potential incidents.

The project, funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and delivered by a consortium led by Applus IDIADA with Cranfield University, Westfield Sports Cars, Cosworth, SBD Automotive and Connected Places Catapult, has seen MuCCA equipped vehicles successfully complete replicas of real-life UK motorway scenarios on test tracks. When the technology in the vehicles detects an incident, the cars share information by radio links, and the on-board computers calculate the best manoeuvres to avoid the obstacles and then safely steer the agreed path to avoid an accident. The MuCCA equipped vehicles also avoid each other and remove the need to brake suddenly – which may have caused vehicles behind to drive into them.

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are expected to become increasingly common on our roads within the next 10 years, there will however be many non-autonomous ‘human driven’ vehicles that will remain for the foreseeable future. In this near future scenario, MuCCA equipped vehicles could take on the added complexity of anticipating the likely behaviour of any human drivers in the vicinity of an incident.

Although the UK has some of the safest roads in the world, around 4,500 accidents still happen on UK motorways each year, contributing to 1,700 annual deaths and over 22,000 serious injuries[1]. Incidents on the motorway network also cause delays and congestions which can have a serious economic impact on UK businesses, costing around £8 billion a year according to estimates. MuCCA technology has the potential to significantly reduce these.

Rachel Maclean MP, Minister of Transport, Department of Transport said: “The potential of self-driving vehicle technology is unprecedented and could help to level up transport across the nation by making every day journeys greener, safer, more flexible and more reliable.

The MuCCA project is yet further proof of the UK leading the way in the safe and secure development of self-driving vehicle technology.”

Charlie Wartnaby, Technical Lead, Applus IDIADA UK said: The MuCCA project has delivered a world first, achieving collective collision avoidance behaviour between real cars, in a clear demonstration of fully automated cooperative control mediated by vehicle-to-vehicle radio. Combining connectivity and automated driving like this has applications beyond the valuable emergency role proven here to more general cooperative vehicle movement, promising enhanced safety and efficiency on our roads in future. This places the UK at the commercial forefront of driving technology that will benefit all of society.

Nicola Yates OBE, Connected Places Catapult CEO said: “The MuCCA project has realised one of the most talked about aspects of connected and automated vehicle technology, safety. Connected Places Catapult is proud to have used our extensive experience with autonomous technology, to support the world leading consortium incorporating large organisations, SMEs and academia, to develop a ground-breaking system and establish the UK as a global leader of vehicle-to-vehicle connected safety solutions.”

[1] DfT Annual Report 2018