VENTURER was the first Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) project to start in the UK and has made significant progress over the last 18 months, but we must not forget the testing and research that is being undertaken across the globe. The testing of driverless cars can be traced back as far as the 1920’s when Houdina Radio Control introduced “Linrrican Wonder”. This primitive driverless car travelled along Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York City’s heavy traffic, radio-operated by the car following behind it. Simplistic as this first project was, it opened the world’s eyes to the possibility of a driverless future and prompted many other companies to begin developing the technology that will enable this.
Flash forward to 2017 and the technology advancements driving the future of CAVs are being realised at many levels and across many countries, including the UK. Driverless car technologies are being tested and improved all around us, with Singapore trialling nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis, Tesla planning to launch cars with driverless capabilities in the US and VENTURER’s Wildcat taking to Bristol roads later this year for its first real-road trial.
However, as highlighted at the recent New Cities Foundation event on the future of urban mobility, although the technology enabling driverless vehicles may soon be ready, deploying CAVs onto public roads will not be appropriate or possible until policy is adapted to make this safe. The Tokyo-based event hosted a range of discussions exploring the changing nature of urban mobility with policy, industry and technology leaders from around the globe. Part of this event involved discussions around “the promise of driverless cars” which covered topics such as the governing of CAV technology, the transition from manual cars to complete autonomy, and the ethics surrounding the question on what is the “best” way forward for CAV development.
This is a recurring theme across many CAV discussions: the vital role that policy changes play in enabling widespread CAV deployment. VENTURER is well positioned in this respect as our partners AXA and Burges Salmon are using the project’s trials to provide recommendations on the legal and insurance policy changes that autonomous vehicles require.
The fundamental message coming from industry experts around the globe is that so long as technology is continuing to transform, policy makers and the public have no choice but to keep up and address the difficult ethical, social and political issues created by driverless vehicles.
You can find AXA and Burges Salmon authored articles on the changing nature of liability and the liability implications of handover in the media archives of the VENTURER website, as well as a link to AXA’s first annual report.
By Imogen Weight – Atkins
 Jonathan Spear – Cars of the future: driven by technology or policy?