UK fleet taxi operator Addison Lee Group says it is readying for the operation of self driving vehicles in London by 2021.

The company says it will work with UK-based driverless vehicle technology specialist Oxbotica in a strategic alliance to develop the vehicles for deployment in London before moving on to other cities.

Addison Lee Group said the long-term aim is to take greater share of an expanding car services market for connected autonomous vehicle technology, forecasted to be worth GBP28bn in the UK by 2035. Addison Lee aims to use its ‘trusted brand to offer affordable, quality, ride-shared services to passengers currently underserved by existing driven transport modes, as well as explore opportunities to provide corporate shuttles, airport and campus-based services’.

The two companies will pool expertise, technology and on-the-ground resource to explore self-driving car services that are ‘safe and environmentally friendly, and which still deliver the exceptional customer experiences Addison Lee Group is known for’.

The companies will work together to create detailed, digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital. These maps will record the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light in preparation for the deployment of autonomous cars.

Mobility opportunity

With private car ownership declining at the same time city populations are expanding, consumers are increasing their use of car services, the company says. It also says the global transport services market is forecast to experience significant growth – especially the ‘premium segment’.

By leveraging the strengths of each partner, it is hoped the alliance will open new opportunities to reach consumers in new markets and segments starting in London, following into New York and other international markets.

Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said: “This represents a huge leap towards bringing autonomous vehicles into mainstream use on the streets of London, and eventually in cities across the United Kingdom and beyond.

“Our partnership with Addison Lee Group represents another milestone for the commercial deployment of our integrated autonomous vehicle and fleet management software systems in complex urban transport conditions. Together, we are taking a major step in delivering the future of mobility.”

Andy Boland, CEO of Addison Lee Group, said: “Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now.

“Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport. By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles. We are proud to be partnering with a British technology pioneer and leader in autonomous vehicle technology, Oxbotica, and together we will continue our British success story in how we revolutionise the way people get around cities.”

Addison Lee Group recently set up and led the MERGE Greenwich consortium, a UK government-funded project investigating how autonomous vehicle ride-sharing could be introduced to complement existing public transport services. Using the London Borough of Greenwich as a model, the project found that by 2025, self-driving, ride-shared services could assist significantly with addressing the capital’s transport challenges and make it easier and more accessible for citizens to move around. In parallel, Oxbotica is leading the DRIVEN consortium, and has already launched a fleet of vehicles currently running autonomously in public trials in London and Oxford.

Addison Lee is one of the UK’s biggest fleet taxi operators and its branded vehicles are a familiar site on London’s roads. It is a particularly big customer for Ford and runs a large number of Galaxy MPV models.