Devon tourist attraction aims to build driverless vehicle test facility – in miniature

April 1st 2017.

Babbacombe Model Village (, in Torbay, Devon, has joined forces with a driverless technology training startup in an innovative bid for grant funding from the UK Government.

The funding will be used to upgrade the road infrastructure at Babbacombe Model Village, to provide facilities to test driverless vehicle technology, as well as provide charging facilities for companies also developing small low-carbon vehicles.

“The biggest benefit”, says General Manager Simon Wills, “is that we can offer everything that the big test facilities can offer, but at 1/12th of the cost… that’s great for all the companies working on the technology, but it’s also great news for the taxpayer, and could really help us attract business from overseas.”

International appeal

The Model Village, which has stood for more than half a century, boasts more than 400 buildings, and includes village and city settings, shopping areas and a variety of types of public transport in a small space.

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, of driverless technology training company Self Driving Track Days (, said he was excited about the project’s potential. “What most people across the industry recognise is that developing, and more importantly testing, driverless vehicle technology is really complicated.”

“We regularly work with companies developing technologies used in driverless cars around the world through our vehicle perception training and events, and those companies are crying out for a lower-cost approach. The great thing about a lot of this technology is a considerable percentage of it can be developed and tested on scale-model vehicles.”

“UK government is investing heavily in this area, so we are really pleased to be able to help the taxpayer achieve the best possible value for money by taking a fresh approach.”

“We are excited to be working with Simon and his team on this project and welcome feedback from companies in the supply chain on how we can work together,” concluded Alex.

“We were really pleased when we finally identified a partner that understood what we were trying to achieve”, said Babbacombe’s General Manager Simon Wills, “and the team at Self Driving Track Days has great connections across the driverless technology industry globally, a really great community of supporters in the UK, as well as the experience in going through the fund application process.”

Technology applications in the built environment

Babbacombe Model Village already boasts a variety of environments which would cost tens of millions of pounds to replicate at full scale, and has a range of support facilities which make it ideal for new startups, notably small companies looking to scale up.

“We have office space and workshops already in place to complement the planned road testing environment and unique infrastructure needed for this sort of project, alongside full accessibility support, catering, on-site design and manufacturing facilities, and a 4D theatre to provide support for the virtual testing that will also be part of the project,” said Wills.

Tourist attraction continues

Babbacombe would continue to operate as a tourist attraction if the funding bid was successful, and provide its facilities outside the main tourist season – when vehicle testing is at its peak.

Until then, it’s business as usual. “We are gearing up for a busy Easter holiday period right now, so will be looking forward to the first big crowds of the year, “ said Wills, “we’d be delighted to hear what our visitors have to say about this future project.”

Further information about the project can be found at or


Notes for editors:

Babbacombe Model Village ( is a Tourist Attraction located in Torbay, Devon. Established in 1963, the village portrays English life and culture over the last 6 decades, having been open for 54 years.  It boasts 413 buildings set in 4 acres of gardens and has an estimated population of 13,160.

Self Driving Track Days is run by Sense Media Group (, a Surrey-based startup specialising in vehicle perception events and training.  Its event series include Self Driving Track Days (, the world’s first events providing test track facilities for driverless vehicle technologies, specialist training, meetups on driverless and autonomous vehicles around the UK and AutoSens (, the world’s leading vehicle perception conference.

The CAV Testing Infrastructure fund being applied for was announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget in 2016 and will be delivered by Innovate UK (, with policy and scope guidance from UK Gov’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (, and was publicly launched with an industry briefing event on March 28th 2017.

Further enquiries

Media enquiries can be directed to:

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley: Mob: 07757 647199

Simon Wills:

Filming at Babbacombe can be arranged with Simon for Friday 31st March. Interviews can take place in Devon (with Simon) or London (with Alex) or remotely via either with Skype, etc.

Date and Venue change for UK event

After a venue visit in December, we have decided to change the venue (and dates) of the upcoming event in the UK.  This decision reflects our need in the UK to have greater workshop capacity, as well as needs of our participants in terms of transport ease.

getlstd-property-photoThe new venue, Daytona Karting Circuit (pictured right), is located at Sandown Racecourse in Esher, Surrey.

This location is better served with public transport, and for those travelling from further afield is helpfully located half way between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports, and has better facilities for training and attendants, with catering onsite, which we expect to be our main attraction thanks to proximity to a large population base.  While the former venue we had selected had ample space, as a multi-use site, they could provide the reassurances on logistics we had requested for the dates we needed.

The new dates will be from 24-25 April.  A reminder for those of you wanting to attend – the workshop is a one day workshop, repeated twice.  If you attend on day one, you do not need to attend again!

We intend to run more comprehensive training workshops at other events and are working on CPD Accreditation for these.

Daytona, as a premier karting venue (it has hosted many professional drivers, including recently Fernando Alonso!), are also able to offer a BBQ and drinks for participants wishing to stay after the workshop, and we’ll also be offering karting on both evenings although this is subject to a minimum booking number in order to proceed.

If you have not already done so, please join the mailing list to be kept informed, and book now to guarantee your place.

European Robotics Week, Midlands IM Conference, new Meetups and more

Networking meet-ups – December 2016 and January 2017

We have got two networking meet-ups confirmed:

  • London12th December – 12-2pm. There’s still space so please book now. We had a venue in Docklands but it’s possible we’ll have to move to a venue just next door, but the date and time remain the same.
  • Brighton20th January – 12-2pm. Lots of space so please book now. This will be hosted by our friends at the Brighton Digital Catapult.

For regular updates, please sign up to our mailing list, join the group on

European Robotics Week

It’s been two weeks since our inaugural event in Leicestershire and although we have already started looking at the remaining 3 events in this series and starting to plan our return to the UK in November 2017, I felt it was worthwhile revisiting one of the partnerships we have, with European Robotics Week.  I describe it as a small partnership because our inclusion was fairly late in that event’s planning and we felt that we could have done more with it – indeed next year, we hope to do much more.

This themed event week included more than 800 events in 30 countries, so we were delighted to be one of the first events on their international event calendar and also one of only a small handful in the UK taking part.  The event is delivered by SPARC, the partnership for Robotics in Europe.

SPARC is the largest civilian-funded robotics innovation programme in the world, and is a partnership between the European Commission and a trade group called euRobotics founded in 2012 by 35 organisations. Now, euRobotics represents more than 250 companies, universities and research institutions, ranging from traditional industrial robotics manufacturers to producers of agricultural machinery and innovative hospitals.


Much has been made of the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the UK but it’s worthwhile pointing out that nobody really knows what the effect of this will be, if or when the UK leaves the EU, and whether or not the country or its industries will be excluded from any particular international programmes.

The likelihood is that whatever the political change, the UK’s strength in robotics, space, engineering and industry, as well as other STEM-influenced sectors (Science, technology, engineering and maths) which the UK holds a seat at the ‘big table’ will ensure its place in activities such as this.  Our attitude is, and will remain, that we are part of an international community and unless we are forcibly stopped from working collaboratively across all markets, that’s exactly what we will continue to do.

Robotics and Automation

Why Robotics?  It’s straightforward really, let’s say there are 2000 distinct functions performed by a driver (I think that’s about right, I saw it at a presentation at some point this year but sorry, can’t find the source), 90% of them can be automated with very well established technologies from robotics and industrial automation sector experience – it’s just a question of applying that experience and technology into the automotive sector then making it reliable and cheap enough to go into a production vehicle.

The other 10% gets trickier and starts needing to take advantage of more ‘natural’ processing, which is where AI and huge volumes of data processing comes into play… but if we can access the expertise in other sectors to accelerate the advancement of autonomous vehicles, then why not?  The markets, supply chain and expertise are far larger and more mature, so has a lot to offer.

Midlands Intelligent Mobility Conference

This week we exhibited at the Midlands IM Conference, a free event hosted at Loughborough University’s Holywell Park Conference Centre, not far from where we held our November networking meetup or our inaugural test track and training event.

The conference was organised by two groups of universities (six institutions in all) funded to run specific outreach projects: IMPART and IMPETUS. Both of these are tasked with developing links from universities into government and industry on the topic of Intelligent Mobility, and they have done great work with their extremely modest budgets.

Intelligent Mobility is not just the topic of autonomous vehicles, but also communications, infrastructure, fleet vehicles, public transport, mobility as a service and a myriad of other policy buzz words all of which have a wide variety of industries feeding in to them that are not typically on the radar of the average driverless technology junkie.

I was there with Lina Alousta, our Business Development Manager, exhibiting and networking with a wide variety of organisations active in the UK, as well as several international companies developing their own understanding of what the UK market has to offer.

As one of the only organisations with international technology awareness (primarily from our sister brand, the AutoSens vehicle perception conference – which takes place in the US and Europe) there was a lot of interest in Self Driving Track Days, our networking meetups and other various other events, products and services we are rolling out over the next 18 months both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe… so while naturally we can’t say who we talked to, we were very pleased with the event and will look forward to next years’ incarnation.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn and if you have not already done so, add your details to the mailing list.

UK Robotics Week 2017

badge5_0We are very excited to confirm that we are officially part of UK Robotics Week 2017, running from 24th-30th June 2017.

We will be running a series of events around the UK (details, venues and times tbc), open to all, and include short talks on autonomous vehicles, the state of the market and opportunities for how to get involved in driverless vehicles, as well as Q&A sessions.

We’ll be publishing further news on the events close to the time, but to save time, join the mailing list for the latest updates or check out the UK Robotics Week website.

European Robotics Week

European Robotics Week

robotics_week_logo_landOur first test and workshop event, on 15-16 November, is now part of European Robotics Week.

Actually, ERW runs from 18-28 November 2016 but we are delighted to be part of this huge educational project nonetheless (the dates for our event were fixed months ago)

European Robotics Week (ERW) offers one week of various robotics related activities across Europe for the general public, highlighting growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of application areas. ERW aims at inspiring technology education in students of all ages to pursue careers in STEM-related fields, i.e. science, technology, engineering and math.

The European Robotics Week (ERW) was conceived at the European Robotics Forum (ERF) 2011 by the desire of the European Robotics community to bring robotics research and development closer to the public and to build the future Robotics Society.

There is a lot going on in Europe during the European Robotics Week: school visits with lectures on robotics, guided tours for pupils, open labs, exhibitions, challenges, robots in action on public squares. The participating companies, universities and research bring their robots and organisations to the attention of the public educating them on how robotics impacts society, both now and in the future.

You can find out more the ERW website, where other events around Europe are listed, or following @eu_Robotics on Twitter.


November meet-up venue confirmed

We are very grateful to the Intelligent Mobility Partnership (IMPART), a group of Universities in the Midlands operating under a single project on developing approaches to Intelligent Mobility, for supporting our next meet-up, which will take place from 12-2pm on November 10th at the Advanced Technology Innovation Centre, a building in Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park.

Situated just off the M1, it’s easy to get to by car, with plenty of free parking or if you’re travelling via public transport it’s a very ride from Loughborough Station, with a shuttle bus every 10 minutes. Location information.

We’re anticipating a strong showing from local businesses, as well as local students and academic staff, researchers and Formula Student teams.

Register your seat today!

Just over one month to go

Just over one month to go

Our first on-track event is now a little over one month away and last week we visited the venue in Leicestershire, roughly 2 hours’ drive north of London and in the British Midlands – an area synonymous with the automotive industry – large parts of the automotive industry still exist within an hour’s drive in any direction, supported by multiple universities and hundreds of manufacturing companies at all levels of the supply chain.

Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, as you might have already guessed from the incredibly long straights, is a former air base. It was originally commissioned by the RAF during WW2, later lent to the USAF and eventually closed in 1962. Later on, while in private ownership, it was home to the last airworthy Avro Vulcans, which were (by the 2000s) only used for display purposes.

To say the facilities are large is something of an understatement… the main straight is 10,000 feet long.  Although most military facilities were removed through the process of privatisation, the venue’s military heritage is still strongly evident, with a large number of planes of all sizes stored on site (from private single props to commercial Jumbo Jets and interceptor jets to nuclear bombers).

As a vehicle proving ground, it is typically used for high speed runs, the track record being held by a production car which, although restricted, still reached an absurd 237 mph (381 k/ph). On the day we visited to recce the area we’d be using, it was expected that a car being tested that day, which we were kept away from and forbidden from discussing, would pass that speed!  Other vehicles which have been tested on site include military, aerial, jets, unmanned drones, motorbikes, lorries, and it also hosts large outdoor events as well, regularly hosts film and music video shoots, parties and of course – track days!

On with the topic of today’s update though, and that is to remind you that registration is now open for our first event.

Registration types

Registration is now open, with three different types of entry available:

  1. Test vehicle – For organisations with a vehicle they’d like to test.  Price for this event is £100 per vehicle and is a refundable deposit.  We also ask for the members of the support team and their email addresses to be added to the registration. Restricted to 20 cars.
  2. Development team – For up to two people from any organisation wanting to learn more about how to build autonomous vehicles.  Ideal for researchers, Formula Student Teams, small car manufacturers, Tier 2s and other organisations. Restricted to 20 people.
  3. Press – for anyone wishing to visit as a member of the media.

As we’ve said before, regrettably we are unable to accommodate members of the public or spectators.

The Indy Lodge, with training room and wifi.

The Indy Lodge, with training room and wifi. Our temporary marquee will be erected to the right of this building, with exit directly on to the track.

Facilities on site

  • During our event, we’ll be using a small building, “The Indy Lodge”, for briefings, presentations and workshops.
  • Teams bringing vehicles will each have a work-bay in a temporary marquee we’ll be installing on hard-standing next to the track area we’ll be using, known as the Indy Circuit.
  • Wheelchair access and separate Ladies/Gents/Disabled loos will be available.
  • Good GPS coverage on track. Variable-to-poor mobile connectivity on track.
  • Track access will be controlled by marshal radios.
  • Overnight accommodation for teams is not available on site.

Due to the nature of some of the activities that occur at Bruntingthorpe, all access on to site is strictly controlled. If you’re not registered, you will not be allowed on site.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Cheeky additional note: If you want to learn more about driverless cars, pick up a copy of Esquire (UK) next month!

Der Start von „Self Driving Track Days“

Der Start von „Self Driving Track Days“

Österreichs erster öffentlicher Test-Event für die Entwicklung autonomer Fahrzeugtechnologien wird Anfang 2017 stattfinden. Das Startup „Self Driving Track Days“ hat darüber hinaus eine Reihe von ähnlichen Veranstaltungen in ganz Europa bekanntgegeben, welche die Entwicklung von Technologien für selbstfahrende Autos beschleunigen sollen.

Die Veranstaltungen richten sich an Entwickler-Teams im Bereich der autonomen Fahrzeugtechnologien und der ADAS (komplexer Fahrerassistenzsysteme). Diese privaten Events, die alle 3 Monate auf verschiedenen Teststrecken in ganz Europa stattfinden, sollen eine sichere und kontrollierte Umgebung für die Forschung und Entwicklung anbieten. Der Anfang wird im November 2016 in Großbritannien gemacht werden. Im Juli 2017 folgt ein Flagship-Event in Österreich, nämlich im ÖAMTC-Fahrtechnikzentrum Teesdorf bei Wien.

„Die fahrerlose Fahrzeugtechnik ist eine noch sehr junge Disziplin, welche das Knowhow aus verschiedenen Bereichen der Mechanik, der Elektrik und der Software-Entwicklung miteinander verbindet. Wir sind daran interessiert, die Qualifikationslücken zwischen dem aktuellen Stand der Ausbildung und den tatsächlichen Anforderungen der Industrie zu schließen, um so einen neuen Talent-Pool zu schaffen. Diese Veranstaltungen werden viele Menschen aus unterschiedlichen Branchen zusammenbringen und dabei helfen, ihre Fähigkeiten weiterzuentwickeln. Sie werden ihnen die notwendige Erfahrung vermitteln, um für die kritischen nächsten Schritte für ihre Produkte vorbereitet zu sein.“

Mitgründer Alex Lawrence-Berkeley betonte ganz besonders, dass die Veranstaltungen so angelegt sind, dass sie sich auf die Steigerung der ingenieurtechnischen Fähigkeiten und einschlägiger praktischer Erfahrungen konzentrieren: „Diese Streckentage sind für Innovatoren, Erfinder und Forscher gedacht. Entwickler-Teams auf kommerziellem, akademischem oder Hobby-Niveau können dadurch die autonome Fahrzeugtechnik in einer sicheren, bezahlbaren und partnerschaftlichen Umgebung erforschen – und Zugang zu speziellen Fachausbildungen erlangen, den nur erfahrene Branchenprofis liefern können.“

„Wir beabsichtigen, diese Branche zu bereichern, indem wir eng mit Fachmessen, Industrieverbänden und Berufsvereinigungen zusammenarbeiten. Damit wollen wir sicherstellen, dass sie von dieser neuen Veranstaltungsreihe profitieren können, welche der Entwicklung neuer Sicherheitsprotokolle und revolutionärer Fähigkeiten in allen damit verbundenen Industriezweigen dient. Wir freuen uns darauf, mit den vielen etablierten kommerziellen und akademischen Wettbewerbern im Automobilbau zusammenzuarbeiten, die für unsere Zukunft fahrerlose Serienfahrzeuge entwickeln – einschließlich der „Formula Student“ in den Nachbarländern, und vor allem in Österreich und Deutschland.“

„Die Region kann auf eine stolze Tradition in der Fahrzeugtechnik zurückblicken, und wir freuen uns auf die fantastischen Einrichtungen im ÖAMTC-Fahrtechnikzentrum. Diese werden für eine Reihe von verschiedenen Veranstaltungen verwendet, welche oftmals spannende Weltpremieren sein werden. Wir werden eine Vielzahl von Automobil-Ingenieuren im Zentrum Teesdorf begrüßen dürfen, spezielle Workshops im Fachbereich für autonome Fahrzeuge abhalten und die erste eigens für die Anwerbung und Rekrutierung von Fachpersonal im Bereich der fahrerlosen Autotechnologie gedachte Recruiting-Veranstaltung der Welt präsentieren, wobei Vertreter der Industrie und verschiedener Universitäten vor Ort sein werden. Die zweitägige Veranstaltung wird auch die Teams der „Formula Student Driverless“ willkommen heißen. Diese werden sich im Rahmenprogramm der deutschen Wettbewerbe kostenlos auf den Teststrecken miteinander messen können.“


  • Bruntingthorpe-Testzentrum, Leicestershire, GB: 15.-16. November 2016: Inklusive eines mehrspurigen, geraden Autobahnteilstückes.
  • Fahrsicherheitszentrum Castellet, Provence, Frankreich, 21.-22. Februar 2017: Eine Rennstrecke mit separaten Fahrtrainingsbereichen, direkt neben der berühmten „Paul Ricard“-Grandprix-Strecke.
  • Longcross-Testareal, Surrey, GB, 10.-11. Mai 2017: Asphaltierte und unasphaltierte Teststrecken.
  • Zentrum Teesdorf, Österreich: 28.-29. Juli 2017: Flagship-Event mit vier Rennstrecken, einschließlich eines Straßenverkehrs-Trainingszentrums, einem Fahrtrainingsbereichen, einem Off-Road-Areal und anderen Einrichtungen, sowie eine Vielzahl von Trainings-Workshops, die Gelegenheit zum direkten Austausch, dem Netzwerken und vielem mehr bieten.

Erfahren Sie (in englischer Sprache) mehr auf unserer Website unter – oder folgen sie uns auf Twitter unter @SD_TrackDays

Upcoming events and general update

The last few weeks have been extremely busy, having run two networking meet-ups in London and Brussels, a number of other industry events around the UK (including LCV 2016) as well as the fantastic AutoSens vehicle perception conference at AutoWorld in Belgium.

I wanted to write a quick note to thank everyone that attended both events, numbers of which were around 25 in London and 35 in Brussels, and also confirm that more are planned, in Europe and elsewhere!

So as a rough guide to locations, I’ll start with confirming that we’ll be running free networking / meet-up events outside the UK in the following places in 2017.

  • February – Provence, France (venue tbc)
  • May – Detroit, MI, USA (co-hosted with AutoSens US – venue tbc)
  • July – nr Vienna, Austria (Zentrum Teesdorf)
  • September – Belgium (co-hosted with AutoSens Europe – venue tbc)

I’ll follow up that that we really want to work alongside people already running networking meet-ups in those cities or countries and will happily host and help promote those meet-ups, as well as support local education, research or related activities.

As for the UK, that’s certainly the easiest location for us to run these events, and we’ve had some useful feedback which has led us to consider having a touring meet-up event.  Obviously this is slightly trickier, but it makes sense for those who need to travel and might be based more than an hour or two from the meet-up.  London is great for the South East, so we’ll continue to run meetings there every 2 months, meanwhile we will also look for venues in heavily populated and easily-reached locations where we feel we can find friendly hosts working in the industry – cities in the Midlands, Oxford and Cambridge, Manchester, Newcastle and others.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Whenever we have a significant update, we’ll post an email out, so if you haven’t already, join the mailing list and you’ll be among the first to know!

Registration opens for Europe’s first open driverless car test event

As the launch event in the Self Driving Track Days series of driverless technology test track series, aimed at those working on autonomous vehicles and driverless technologies, we’re providing two full days of access to the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground on 15th and 16th November 2016.

The event will play host to car manufacturers, university researchers, and organisations that have already developed driverless vehicle technology, and provide two days of test track time for data gathering, testing, systems diagnostics and exploration, as well as an opportunity to discuss business, transport, autonomous vehicles and technology with fellow professionals and attending media.

We’re inviting a number of car and technology suppliers from around the world (some of whom have already confirmed they will be shipping autonomous vehicles over) but as a UK company ourselves, we’re also keen to support the demonstration and visibility of as much UK research and technology as possible.

This might be include fully driverless vehicles (personal transport pods, cars or small buses) or robotically controlled drones used for delivery, or development platforms for sensor systems, human-machine interface research, or articificial intelligence-controlled motorised systems.

A number of international media outlets have confirmed they’ll be attending already.

We are prioritising free entry to organisations with working driverless vehicles (to maximise media coverage) but if, for example, you have a development platform or prototype on which other technologies could be combined, then please get in touch with me directly by email –

We are working closely with leading autonomy components supplier AutonomouStuff to create “driverless perception kits” – for organisations, researchers and universities to have more affordable access to the hardware needed to develop driverless vehicles.  The kit concept and contents will also be launched at this event.

Regrettably we are not able to accommodate spectators, however this will be a great opportunity to test your technologies and gain exposure to colleagues around the industry, share knowledge and network, as well as have opportunities for international media coverage.

Register online and find out more about the event at

Please note the entry fees are refundable deposits, per vehicle.