The Oxford Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) at Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science has been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle research in the UK for over a decade.
The group's technology is at the heart of the driverless LUTZ pods, currently on trial in Milton Keynes. It enables the pods to navigate and understand their environment, so knowing exactly where they are and being able to recognise and avoid pedestrians and obstacles. The team is working with the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and project partners to build autonomous systems into the pods.
The Oxford researchers first demonstrated their autonomous technology in March 2011, only a year after Google announced it was testing driverless vehicles on California. Its technology does not rely on GPS because that doesn't work well in built-up environments and is not precise enough. Nor does it use embedded infrastructure such as beacons and guide wires, as this would be impractical and far too expensive.
Instead, the approach to navigation uses algorithms that combine machine learning and probabilistic inference to build up maps of the world around it using data form on-board sensors and 'learn as it drives'. The maps it builds (and updates) are like memories of a route which can be accessed to allow the vehicle to guide itself through places it has been before.