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Ordnance Survey: on the road to a driverless future

24 January 2017

Owain Hale-Heighway
Smart Cities Practice, Mobility Lead,
Ordnance Survey (OS)

In recent years, we have witnessed a significant increase in demand for location based services, largely driven by the uptake of smartphones. In their sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey, Deloitte suggested that in the UK, 80% of adults (or approximately 37 million people) now have a smartphone. Allied to this, 2016 saw autonomous vehicles moving into the collective conscience through a number of high-profile incidents and launches.

By the turn of the year, this piece from the BBC provided a summary on the state of the sector. Phil Harrold, automotive partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, is quoted “old-fashioned OEMs came to the realisation that if they are not to become irrelevant they have to embrace the technology and new services".

2017 finds the technology, automotive and mobility sectors at a converging inflection point. Vehicle manufacturers are developing multiple approaches to automation, disruptive start-ups are destabilising traditional mobility models and the tech sector are spreading their range of services across a broader realm of users’ lives.

The emergence of market disrupters and their rapid move to the mainstream has seen new collaborations emerge such as those in place between Google – Chrysler-Fiat and Uber – Volvo. Embracing this disruption, OS is developing our understanding of how high velocity, low latency data (the type of data that all Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) will in the future be collecting, processing and sharing), can augment our structured, authoritative, professionally captured data, such as our recently launched OS MasterMap Highways Network - the authoritative road and transport management product for Great Britain.

Like many new and emerging technologies there is likely to be a battle for defining the pre-eminent standards around vehicle automation. OS is internationally recognised for its work on the shaping and adoption of international standards for geospatial data capture and management. This vision to be at the forefront of open standards development is further reinforced as OS is the only strategic member of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) outside of the USA.

It is in this area of standards definition that OS, with its Atlas consortium partners (GOBOTiX, Oxford Technical Solutions, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Satellite Applications Catapult, Sony Electronics Europe, and TRL), is focussing.

The Atlas feasibility study, which is funded from the UK Government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility fund, is examining the data and communication requirements that will power autonomous navigation. The project is due to conclude in late spring 2017, and OS and the consortium will be seeking to recommend the critical building blocks required for the efficient operation of CAVs.

Underlining our commitment to the CAV sector, OS recently hosted the first UK CAV research and development community building event in collaboration with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which for the first time brought together representatives from each of the projects that are in receipt of support from the Intelligent Mobility fund.

The work we are doing today builds on a legacy of 225 years at the forefront of the geospatial sector and has resulted in widespread international recognition that OS is the leading national mapping agency globally. OS generates 95% of its revenue from the provision of digital products and services to business and government.

Owain can be contacted about OS Smart Cities at owain.hale-heighway@os.uk