DRIVERLESS cars are set to make ‘groundbreaking’ journeys between Oxford and London in just two years’ time.

It will be the culmination of a 30-month programme, which Summertown-based Oxbotica today said was the most complex trial of autonomous vehicles ever undertaken.

The cars will travel in both urban areas and on motorways, with closed-road demonstrations starting in Oxford from early next year.

The consortium behind the project – DRIVEN – is being led by Oxbotica, based in Mayfield Road. It will aim to address key practical issues such as how a fleet of driverless vehicles should communicate with each other, the possible cyber security threats that poses and how they should be insured.

Oxbotica chief executive Dr Graeme Smith hailed the scheme as ‘truly groundbreaking’.

He added: “No company, group or consortium of experts has ever attempted what we are planning.

“We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.

“I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project.”

The consortium also includes Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute, insurance company XL Catlin, Nominet, Telefonica O2 UK, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE, Oxfordshire County Council, Transport for London and Westbourne Communications.

It has been given £8.6m in grant funding from Innovate UK, a government agency, to support the trial.

Professor Paul Newman, head of the Oxford Robotics Institute and one of Oxbotica’s founders, said: “DRIVEN is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other.

“We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles. What’s interesting to us is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.”

Richard Jinks, of XL Catlin, added: “Working on this project gives us the opportunity to work with leading external parties to create a risk profiling tool and insurance pricing mechanism which is truly revolutionary.”

The government-funded trial comes after Oxbotica previously revealed it planned to test its own driverless cars in Oxford later this year.

A spokeswoman told the Oxford Mail that work would be separate and would still take place.