Major taxi firm wants to roll out autonomous car service in London by 2021

Key Points
  • Addison Lee wants to offer customers self-driving services in the U.K. capital by 2021.
  • Digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around London will be produced. 
Kenny McCartney | Moment | Getty Images

The Addison Lee Group has entered into a strategic alliance with self-driving software business Oxbotica in a bid to offer customers self-driving services in the U.K. capital by the year 2021.

In an announcement Monday, the U.K. based Addison Lee – which provides taxi, coach and courier services – said the two firms would work together on the "development, deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles."

The two businesses will collaborate with one another to produce digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around London. Addison Lee said that the maps would "record the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light" to prepare for the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Andy Boland, the Addison Lee Group's CEO, said in a statement that urban transport would change beyond recognition in the next decade with the introduction of self-driving services.

"Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport," Boland added. "By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles."

Across the world, a number of initiatives focusing on the self-driving sector are taking shape. Earlier this month, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) unveiled what it described as the region's first autonomous taxi.

A three-month trial run of the vehicle is to start toward the end of 2018 on designated routes. The RTA said the technology underscored its commitment to enhance the Dubai government's strategy to turn 25 percent of mass transit journeys in the emirate into autonomous ones by 2030.

While there is excitement surrounding the potential of autonomous vehicles, concerns have been raised with regards to safety. In March, for example, one of ride-hailing powerhouse Uber's autonomous vehicles killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

When it comes to regulation, there are also a host of questions to be answered. "There are no rules right now, international rules, on how to regulate automated vehicles," Philippe Crist, from the International Transport Forum, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy earlier this year.

"The safety regulation of automated vehicles will have to be the same as for regular vehicles, using the same principles," Crist added.

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