A driverless Nissan Leaf drove 230 miles across England in the most extensive and complicated journey in the country, Reuters reported on Wednesday (Feb. 5).
The all-electric LEAF started its trip from Nissan’s technical facility in Cranfield, which is in southern England, to its Sunderland location in the northeast. It completed the journey in conjunction with mainstream drivers.
Dubbed HumanDrive, the project was partially government-funded and was led by Nissan as part of a nine-partner cooperative. The project’s goal is to establish a control system for driverless cars that mimics a human’s driving techniques.
“The … project allowed us to develop an autonomous vehicle that can tackle challenges encountered on U.K. roads that are unique to this part of the world, such as complex roundabouts and high-speed country lanes with no road markings, white lines or curbs,” said Bob Bateman, project manager of the Nissan Technical Centre.
The road trip included unmarked highways, junctions, roundabouts and motorways, and relied on GPS, radar and light detection along with advanced positioning technology.
“Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is an incredible achievement for Nissan and the HumanDrive consortium, and a huge step toward the rollout of driverless cars on U.K. streets,” said Nadhim Zahawi, a Parliament member and junior business minister.
Nissan chose London for its first European driverless vehicle run in 2017, when the car hit a speed of 50 mph. The Japanese carmaker said at the time that Britain was a good location to test autonomous cars because of its flexibility.
“The U.K. is more advanced in Europe for testing purposes. And it would be better if a driverless car of the future was to not be a gas-guzzler,” said Hayato Akizuki, a senior technology planner at Nissan.
Britain estimates that the value of the autonomous vehicle industry could reach £900 billion ($1.2 trillion) globally in 2035, despite progress being stymied by safety and liability issues.
In December, Silicon Valley startup Plus.ai was the first company to deploy a self-driving commercial truck to haul 40,000 pounds of butter roughly 42 hours cross-country from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania. The company envisions that these kinds of cross-country deliveries will become “the norm in the future.”