James May visits Oxford for test-ride in driverless Ford Mondeo

But on this occasion, in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Oxford, James May didn’t have to.

The television presenter and petrolhead, affectionately known as ‘Captain Slow’ to his fans, took a spin in a driverless Ford Mondeo in Oxford Business Park North.

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After a successful test drive, he said the car had “demolished his prejudices” against automated driving technology.

Mr May’s visit to the business park in Garsington Road came as he guest-edited BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on December 27.

As part of a segment about the future of driverless cars – a technology he is sceptical of – Mr May visited the headquarters of software company Oxa.

Oxford Mail: An Oxa - formerly known as Oxbotica - car in action An Oxa – formerly known as Oxbotica – car in action (Image: Image: Oxbotica)

The company, which was founded in 2014, aims to build software that enables any vehicle to be self-driving.

A test-drive in one of Oxa’s automated vehicles impressed the Grand Tour presenter.

Describing the experience, Mr May said: “There is a man behind the wheel. He has to be there just in case something goes wrong.

“But he’s got his hands on his knees and he’s not doing anything.

“And yet the steering wheel is moving, the car is accelerating and braking and going round roundabouts.”

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Mr May described at one point how the car recognised a speed hump with a pedestrian crossing on top.

“This is annoying,” he joked. “This is slightly demolishing my prejudices.

“I might have to rewrite them a little bit.”

Oxford Mail: Oxa founder Paul NewmanOxa founder Paul Newman (Image: Photo: Oxbotica)

After the drive, he chatted with engineer Paul Newman, who co-founded Oxa with robot boffin Ingmar Posner, about whether driverless cars would appear on UK roads any time soon.

Professor Newman said: “We’re very much not about cars. We’re about autonomous vehicles.

“In the end, cars will be driving themselves all the time. I’m sure of that.

“But the way to get there is not to do the hardest possible thing first, which is the everywhere driving problem.

“It’s not immediate, but it’s hard to believe this technology isn’t going to arrive, and it’s hard to believe it isn’t going to be valuable and produce more choices and allow the business to do innovation with it.”

Oxa made history in 2021 as the first company to have its autonomy safety case assessed against the requirements of the UK Code of Practice 2019.

The assessment certified the safety conformity of its autonomous vehicle trials and testing.

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