CULHAM Science Centre near Abingdon has announced the completion of a new £5.8m facility to support the development of driverless cars.

The CAV (connected and autonomous vehicles) facility has been named ‘Pit Lane’, due to its resemblance to a Formula 1 garage.

It has been developed at the science centre by RACE, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s centre for Remote Applications in Challenging Environments, supported by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP ) and the Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

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Garry Staunton, lead technologist of RACE, said: “We have been safely hosting trials of autonomous vehicles at Culham Science Centre for over two years.

“Completion of the Pit Lane development will allow us to scale up our operations and we are looking forward to welcoming a wide range of exciting new tenants and watching as they benefit from the investment that has been made.

Herald Series:

“The UK has a strong position within the connected and self-driving sector and Oxfordshire is home to a growing and dynamic cluster of CAV companies.

“Nurturing this is one of the goals of our local industrial strategy.”

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Four purpose-built workspaces, each approximately 2,377sq ft in size, will provide CAV companies with the opportunity to work on two vehicles in the workspace at the same time.

Office accommodation above will allow technicians can analyse huge quantities of data generated from the cars.

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A CAV track control centre from where vehicle movements will be monitored is part of the facility. This will act as the hub for a site-wide fibre optic network that will link with dedicated 4G phone masts and wireless units, something which will boost V2V connectivity (the ability of vehicles to communicate with each other) and further enhance testing capabilities.

Caroline Livingstone, head of property at Culham Science Centre, said: “The completion of Pit Lane signifies an exciting time at Culham Science Centre as we continue to build on the site’s strong heritage by providing world-leading facilities to enable the development of CAV and other robotic technologies.

Herald Series:

“We are committed to ensuring the science centre remains a major employment centre in Oxfordshire.”

The design and construction contractor behind Pit Lane is Midas Construction.

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Derek Quinn, executive director at Midas Construction, said: “The work carried out at Pit Lane will have a lasting influence on the way we think about our relationship with driving and will also be a major boost to the high-tech industries in the area.”

With 10km of private roads as well as more than 2,000 people on site, the science centre says it offers a 'unique environment/ for testing driverless car.

Culham Science Centre is operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.