Wednesday, 11 May 2016

UK driverless cars set to get moving

In the coming few months, eyes will be turned to the UK CITE project – a bid by the UK government to fund autonomous vehicles as work by consortium partners gathers momentum.
UK CITE or UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment is aimed at creating “the most advanced environment for testing connected and autonomous vehicles”.
Launched on 1 February this year it involves equipping over 40 miles of urban roads, dual-carriageways and motorways with combinations of three “talking car technologies” and testing for a fourth, knowns as LTE-V.
This £5.6 million project involves major players, including Horiba MIRA, JaguarLandRover and Visteon. According to sources, none of the consortium members have started working on their specific areas. Of the three companies mentioned above, Horiba MIRA is the most recent to come into prominence; MIRA being formerly the Motor Industry Research Association.
It is just nine months since Horiba, a world leader in automotive test systems, expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of the world-renowned MIRA facility in Nuneaton, UK. Previously, MIRA had been one of Horiba’s UK customers.
This strategic step forward on the part of the Japan-headquartered business moved it into vehicle engineering and testing consultancy. At a stroke it repositioned the business. It was no longer just an equipment supplier to the automotive industry; it had become a service provider.
The strategic acquisition by Horiba without doubt played an important part in MIRA’s ability to have the financial clout to pitch – and win – an important slice of the UK Government’s UK CITE programme. Similar government work is now likely to be in prospect elsewhere in Europe.
By the same token, projects such as UK CITE, and others it could win in the same £100 million UK programme, could allow Horiba to play an important part in gaining more business from the UK – and possibly European – automotive industry.
For, without MIRA’s specialist resources, Horiba would not be in the position to pitch for such UK government contracts. Likewise, without Horiba’s financial muscle MIRA too could not easily pitch for such contracts.
Following its acquisition of MIRA on 15 July last year, Horiba MIRA has come on by leaps and bounds, consolidating the position that both businesses occupied before the acquisition. One and one has effectively created three.
                                    Substantial UK foothold
Horiba already had a substantial foothold in the UK through its automated emissions analysis equipment installed in UK-automotive companies. Principal among these OEMs is, of course, JaguarLandRover where Horiba, with its comprehensive automotive test equipment, is almost taken for granted as the first port of call for equipment of this type.
At the time of the acquisition, Horiba boasted proudly that together the two companies enjoyed 140 years of experience in their respective fields, with both celebrating 70 years of operation in 2015/16. 
At the time of the acquisition Horiba declared the move would “allow MIRA to continue with its ambitious plans for growth by building on its unparalleled reputation in vehicle R&D, engineering and testing”.
To which Horiba added that the purchase “will also allow MIRA to invest in its current facilities and enhance its capabilities on a global scale.”
As part of this investment, the facility is enhancing its test and engineering capabilities. The new work on the 12,000 square foot dedicated Advanced Emissions Test Centre at its Nuneaton headquarters will be complete by the end of this year.
                                 Advanced emissions testing
The Advanced Emissions Test Centre, which represents a £6 million investment into MIRA’s engineering facilities, will provide emissions testing capabilities for global compliance, including Euro6 and Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), as well as incorporating Real World Driving Emissions (RDE) testing capabilities. The facility will be focused around a four-wheel drive (4WD) climatic chassis dynamometer and four soak rooms.
The facility will provide Horiba MIRA with the capability to challenge Ricardo plc in the marker-place, as well as Millbrook Group’s proving ground facility near Lidlington, Bedfordshire – a former General Motors testing laboratory but owned by venture capitalist Rutland Partners since 2013.
Indeed, Rutland’s purchase of Millbrook Proving Ground may well have been the catalyst that set Horiba on its present road.
Horiba claims this latest injection brings to £22 million that Horiba has invested since it took over MIRA in July 2015. The facility is set for completion by the end of 2016, and will create a number new jobs, including a combination of apprentices, engineers and technicians. 
Horiba MIRA has also just bolstered its management team with the appointment of Nick Fell as its new engineering director.
                                          Experience of a multinational
Fell joins at an opportune moment. A mechanical engineer by profession with a Masters in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Warwick University, Fell joins MIRA from Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC), a provider of automotive engineering services to its Indian parent company Tata Motors Ltd (TML). As such, Fell can point to experience gained within a multinational company.
Based at Warwick Fell led the business in his capacity as director and head of TMETC with full profit and loss responsibility since 2010, and organically grew the business to its present size, with significant revenues.
Horiba, headquartered in Kyoto, Japan had 2015 sales of €1.37 billion (Yen 170.9 billion). By way of contrast, Bosch had 2015 sales of €70.6 billion from a workforce (associates) of 374,778 giving a turnover per head of €188,396. The comparative figure for Horiba with “consolidated workforce” of 6,831 is €199,063.
Horiba manufactures and sells automotive emission measurement systems, environmental measuring instruments, wide range of scientific analysers, and medical diagnostic analysers, and measuring equipment used in the semi-conductor industry. Horiba also manufactures and markets peripheral measuring and analysis devices. Moreover, the company equips such facilities as laboratories with measuring and analytical equipment for R&D, production, and other applications.
But as to the automotive sector, the MIRA acquisition would allow Horiba to benefit by addressing “the emerging areas of next generation mobility including electrified powertrain, intelligent vehicles and vehicle attributes technologies.”
By this integration, Horiba declared that it could “provide a comprehensive solution underpinned by a suite of test systems and advanced vehicle engineering capabilities.”
                                 Investing in long-term vision
Atsushi Horiba, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Horiba has said: “MIRA has developed a niche within the automotive sector and has an exceptional pool of engineering capabilities, solving complex challenges with customers across the UK, China, Brazil and Korea. We are looking forward to building on this success and investing in MIRA’s long-term vision, working together to build on our collective research and development capabilities.” 
In Europe, Horiba has locations stretching from Portugal through to Rumania. It also has a capability in Russia.
To which Dr George Gillespie OBE, chief executive officer of Horiba MIRA added: “We have created an exciting plan that will allow us to accelerate that vision. The planned investments into MIRA will allow us to continue to realise our ambitions and has also helped identify a number of additional areas of opportunity and investment in both facilities and technical capabilities.”
“In the immediate future, it’s business as usual. Our customers continue to access our engineering and testing services as well as our full Technology Park offering and our employees continue to be part of an internationally acclaimed test and engineering consultancy, unrivalled in its global expertise and facilities,” he declared.”
It may be recalled that Horiba sprung to public prominence last October when US researchers relied on Horiba’s portable emissions measuring systems in a multi-year round of testing that ended up catching Volkswagen in a lie about engines it had billed as “clean” diesels. Horiba’s equipment helped tip off the researchers to a scheme in which 11 million Volkswagen group cars around the world pollute more on the road than in laboratory tests, exceeding U.S. limits by as much as 40 times more than the law allows.
                            Sustainable mobility revolution
Meanwhile, in March Professor John Miles of Cambridge University and consultants Arup, and Alex Burn, chief executive officer of the Millbrook Group were two of several speakers at The Sustainable Mobility Revolution conference at Cranfield University which will be the proving ground for driverless pods of the type that will be adopted in the near future with the centre of Milton Keynes. Prof. Miles is closely involved with the driverless pods under development for use in the Milton Keynes experiment.
Millbrook Group has ideal facilities in Bedfordshire for testing driverless vehicles in a range of strictly controlled environments, including a high-speed, hill section, off-road and city use.
Together with its laboratory facilities Millbrook offers an ideal confidential environment to evaluate autonomous vehicles well away from public access. However, as yet there is no sign of Millbrook having won any contracts as part of the government’s £100 million endeavour to boost UK status and technology in this area.
Burn made the valid point at the conference that snow is the driverless vehicle’s biggest enemies and points to Millbrook’s experience with connected and autonomous vehicle analysis in Lapland as being ideal for testing in snow conditions.
As a further indicator of Horiba’s size, Bosch’s UK sales of technology and services, generated £2.7 billion (€3.7 billion) in 2015. The full acquisition of two former 50-50 joint ventures, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH and Robert Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH, pushed sales up by more than £800 million, or 42 per cent. The UK is the second largest European market for Bosch, and one that is expected to grow on the back of an increasing demand for connectivity in the Mobility Solutions and Energy and Building Technology sectors as well as a growing interest in Industry 4.0 from UK manufacturers. The number of “associates” employed at Bosch in the UK in 2015 has reached 5,300 across 41 sites giving a sales per head figure of €698,113!
• • The first eight projects of the Government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund were announced 1 February. They range from developing autonomous shuttles to carry visually-impaired passengers using advanced sensors and control systems, to new simulation trials for autonomous pods to increase uptake and improve real-world trials. Trials to test driverless cars on the streets are currently being worked on in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, and Greenwich. Autonomous vehicles are also being used in Heathrow to shuttle passengers, although these are currently on designated tracks.
The first collaborative R&D projects to receive funding is UK CITE or UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment. This project is aimed at creating “the most advanced environment for testing connected and autonomous vehicles”. It involves equipping over 40 miles of urban roads, dual-carriageways and motorways with combinations of three “talking car technologies” and testing for a fourth, knowns as LTE-V. The project will establish how this technology can improve journeys; reduce traffic congestion; and provide entertainment and safety services through better connectivity. Total project is worth £5.6 million; BIS funding: £3.4 million; duration: 30 months. The consortium members are: Visteon Engineering Services Limited, Jaguar Land Rover Ltd, Coventry City Council, Siemens PLC, Vodafone Group Services Ltd, Huawei Technologies (UK) Co Ltd, Horiba Mira Ltd, Coventry University, University of Warwick (WMG), Highways England Company Ltd).
• • • JaguarLandRover is involved in another autonomous vehicle programme, namely MOVE-UK. This project will be focused on accelerating the development, market readiness and deployment of automated driving systems. (£5.5 million; £3.4 million; 36 months; Bosch, Jaguar Land Rover Limited, TRL Limited, The Floow Limited, Direct Line Insurance, Royal Borough of Greenwich.
The FLOOW Ltd of Sheffield, UK, designs “the world's most advanced and lowest-cost telematic systems to make vehicles safer and cheaper for all”.
The eight new projects announced on 1 February are aimed at developing “enhanced connections between vehicles and road infrastructure enabling the next generation of autonomous vehicles”. The first wave of R&D projects are funded by the £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund which is “part of this government’s commitment to backing world-class science and research for the benefit of all”.

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