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Self-driving taxis to launch in London by 2021, Addison Lee says

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Plans have been unveiled to launch self-driving taxis in London by 2021.

Taxi firm Addison Lee Group says it has struck an agreement with Oxbotica, an Oxford-based startup specialising in autonomous software.

The companies plan to create digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital.

They will include the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light, in readiness for the deployment of autonomous cars in the city.

Addison Lee is aiming to gain a share of the autonomous vehicle technology market, which the government forecasts to be worth £28bn in the UK by 2035.



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Addison chief executive Andy Boland said the company intended to be at the forefront of change within a transport industry anticipating the introduction of self-driving services.

He said: “Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport.

“By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond has championed autonomous cars, saying that he wants “genuine driverless vehicles” on Britain’s roads within three years.

The government has asked the Law Commission to carry out a detailed review of driving laws to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the sector.

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Addison Lee’s annoucement comes days after Sky News learned that the company‎ had begun talks with investment banks about a £300m refinancing deal to replace its existing debt facilities.

Such a deal would enable it to bankroll expansion plans and stand up to the likes of rivals Uber and Lyft, also looking to roll out driverless cars.

In a bid to keep up with Uber, Addison Lee has expanded rapidly into the US, snapping up rival Flyte Tyme as well as boosting its global reach by buying Tristar Worldwide, which operates in 80 countries.

Owned by US private equity firm Carlyle Group, Addison Lee was founded in Battersea, London in 1975 and has grown to become Europe’s largest private hire car service company, carrying out 10 million journeys per year.

Its pact with Oxbotica comes at a challenging time for the taxi firm, which swung to a loss last year after it was hit by investment and acquisition costs of almost £20m.

The group posted a pre-tax loss of £20.8m in the year to August 2017, compared to a profit of £10.5m the year before, attributing the fall to “intense long-term investment”, acquisition integration and reorganisation, which led to £18.6m in exceptional costs.

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