What is the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill?

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (formerly known as the Modern Transport Bill) was published recently and received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th March 2017. It contains a specific section on the insurance framework for automated vehicles and the key elements to highlight are:

  • Single insurer model;
  • Strict liability (effectively) on insurer to pay in first instance;
  • Rights of recovery under existing legislation i.e. contributory negligence and products liability;
  • Onus on owner to complete software updates and not to use the vehicle in a manner it was not intended for.

What does that mean in practice? Well, it provides a welcome retention of the status quo. In essence, what has been proposed is a recognisable, simple model of insurance that keeps people’s safety at its core. That can only be a good thing.

Secondly, it does not impose unrealistic levels of liability on OEMs and other third parties. By limiting the rights of recovery to existing laws the environment for innovation remains an attractive one. After all, everyone involved in projects like VENTURER recognises the potential positive impact this technology could have on society which is far broader than the interests of any one company in the consortium.

The UK Government has made it clear that it wants this country to be at the forefront of driverless technology. The difficulty it faces is balancing the need for appropriate legislation without stifling the fantastic R&D that is taking place in this ever evolving field. As we progress there will, of course, be other areas to address such as data sharing and cyber security for example, but happily the Bill is flexible enough to let that happen as and when is necessary. This is the first step.

As the debate noted yesterday, this is a relatively uncontroversial Bill and as a consequence is likely to progress fairly smoothly through Parliament. As and when it becomes law, the fundamental reason for mandatory motor insurance will have been retained – namely that road users and pedestrians are protected in the event of accidents.

What we have, then, in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is a workable framework that will help bring automated vehicles to our roads. There remain understandable questions about public trust, the decision making algorithms and others but all the research, evidence and opinion so far suggests that these vehicles have the capacity to make our roads much, much safer which is why the UK Government, Insurers, technology companies and everyone else involved are all pulling in the same direction.


By Daniel O’Byrne, AXA UK

CAVs across the globe

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”[1]. 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.[2]

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


[1] Jeff Sorensen – The self-driving car series (Part 1)

[2] Jonathan Spear – Cars of the future: driven by technology or policy?

VENTURER helps showcase smart city living at regional event

The VENTURER consortium joined leading tech companies and innovators at Venturefest on Friday 3 February to showcase their contribution to smart city living with connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).

The Wildcat vehicle at Venturefest 2017

The Wildcat vehicle at Venturefest 2017

The event took place at the University of the West of England’s Future Space, a new business hub and exhibition venue situated next to the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL), where the VENTURER simulator and Wildcat vehicle are housed.

Venturefest is a forum for companies embracing Future Cities technology and this year will take the form of a series of events, which started with a seminar series and investor showcase delivered by Invest Bristol & Bath (IBB) in partnership with Innovate UK. This event‘s aim was to explore solutions to the technology challenges of a future city and showcased some of the smart technologies that are transforming the Bristol and Bath region from driverless cars, to robotic companions, and virtual reality office environments. The day-long event received over 350 visitors and there was much interest in the consortium from local businesses, companies and researchers.

Venturefest is supported by the University of Bristol (UoB) and the University of the West of England (UWE) who are represented in the VENTURER Consortium by Dr Rob Piechocki (UoB) and Professor Graham Parkhurst (UWE) and their teams.

The Wildcat vehicle enjoyed pride of place at Venturefest and was one of the first things delegates saw when arriving at the Future Space venue.

The project gained further exposure on a large stand in the demonstration zone, which saw a constant stream of intrigued delegates throughout the day. The VENTURER Consortium were represented by members of staff from Atkins, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council who were available throughout the day to take questions and inform delegates about the project’s progress so far. Inquisitive tech experts and entrepreneurs visiting the stand could also view the VENTURER showreel video and speak to representatives from the project.

Venturefest stand

VENTURER’s stand at Venturefest 2017

As well as the exhibitor’s area and demonstration zone, the event also featured a timetable of speakers and presentations. John McNichol delivered a presentation on VENTURER and FLOURISH to a packed room and also discussed the wider CAV environment in the UK. This was a great opportunity to share with interested parties how the South West’s driverless car project is developing, alongside information about the ‘sister’ project FLOURISH. During the talk John reinforced the fact that development of connected and autonomous vehicles is very much dependent on human machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The day was a great success for VENTURER with many interesting contacts made with local and national companies. The discussions that took place confirmed that CAVs are increasingly recognised as a vital component in the future of smart cities.

The event further verified the South West as an innovative region for new technology, and showed that the area has the skills and ambition required to lead the way with connected technology. We look forward to taking part in other similar events, including a further event planned to take place at Future Space this summer.

The Venturefest Series will continue with events throughout the year culminating in a main Showcase in October 2017 which will shine the spotlight on the region’s tech cluster.

What has VENTURER planned for 2017?

Following the successful completion of Trial 1 in October 2016, the New Year is set to continue with more exciting developments for VENTURER.

Early 2017 – Trial 1 Results

The findings from Trial 1 will be published on our website and via academic journals and publications in early 2017. Trial 1 focused on driver performance during the handover process – when control of the vehicle is transferred from autonomous control to manual control in an urban environment. This considers understanding the important transition phase between semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous vehicles. Handover may be required when the vehicle is unable to operate autonomously for example, when the vehicle enters an area that is not equipped to support CAVs.
The findings from this first trial will help address some of the complex questions surrounding the handover process. Other articles documenting the success of Trial 1 will be available on the VENTURER website, along with the Trial 1 video.

Spring 2017 – Trial 2

Planning for VENTURER’s second trial is already underway and testing is due to commence in spring with completion scheduled for summer 2017. Trial 2 will demonstrate how an autonomous vehicle interacts with another road user and at junctions. During the trial the vehicle, sensors, decision making algorithms and communications software and hardware will all be tested and evaluated. Participant’s views will be captured in order to form an understanding of how users feel when the vehicle is navigating the situation in autonomous mode. Testing will occur at the University of the West of England using both the Wildcat (autonomous vehicle) and the VENTURER simulator.

Summer 2017 – POD Demonstrations

2017 will also see VENTURER’s first public demonstrations – POD demonstrations at two public locations in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. This will be an opportunity for the project to further understand the public’s reaction to a driverless POD and also enable members of the public to experience the type of autonomous mobility that might be on offer in the near future. These demonstrations will help build a greater understanding of the complexities and constraints surrounding the introduction of POD-based autonomous mobility services.

Autumn 2017 – Trial 3

By late 2017, planning will be well underway for VENTURER’s third and final trial which will test the interaction between an autonomous vehicle and other road users, this is likely to include buses, pedestrians and cyclists in an urban environment.

Where to find us?

The VENTURER consortium members are looking forward to representing the project at a range of exciting events in 2017 including Venturefest (Bristol) on 3rd February.

For further information about upcoming developments and to read more interesting articles, search through the Publications page on our website and follow us on Twitter (@Venturer-cars).


Government to Invest in Future Transport

Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement as Chancellor was one packed with positive news featuring ambitious spend on infrastructure, R&D and innovation.  The government has outlined a strong commitment to boosting economic stability in the coming years while simultaneously rebuilding business confidence.

As the UK is set to refocus its efforts on establishing a competitive advantage in the post Brexit era, robust funding in support of future- focused transport projects is welcomed. The package of proposals will see a total of £390 million allocated to developing transport technologies of the future, which includes a sum of £100 million for new connected and autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure.

This is an exciting time for the transport sector. The development of an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will place innovation at its core, acting as a catalyst for growth and productivity. Two key priorities on the political agenda. Further to this, the government’s pro digital stance will create a supportive environment that fosters modernisation.

Importantly, this is a step in the right direction and will go a long way in ensuring we build mobility solutions that are fit for purpose for both this generation and the next.

Looking ahead, the Modern Transport Bill will play a key role in defining the UK’s position in this increasingly competitive market.  Therefore, it is critical the government moves swiftly to establish a progressive legal and regulatory landscape.

Authored by: Kim Regisford, Atkins

Centre for Transport & Society CAV Research

The VENTURER project is interested in the perceptions and expectations that businesses, lobby groups, policy making organisations and local authorities have for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and a driverless mobility future. A team of researchers at the Centre for Transport & Society, UWE Bristol, designed and conducted a series of qualitative research interviews with representatives from these groups. The aim was to understand their perceptions and expectations in relation to:

• The potential applications for CAVs (platforms and technology) introduced to the market, and when;

• The level of autonomy (no autonomy (level 0) – full autonomy (level 5)) these applications could have;

• What factors (such as insurance, regulation, technological innovation, consumer preferences and other socio-technical aspects of the ‘personal mobility system’) would need to change to support a transition to connected and autonomous mobility;

• The type(s) of driverless mobility future the transition could realise; and

• The potential benefits, costs and risks associated with the transition.

The research team are now analysing the vast amount of qualitative data generated from the research with NVivo software. The analysis highlights similarities but also the stark differences in the driverless mobility future imagined by each group. The research also indicates that the transition to CAVs would not only be a matter of technological development or public acceptance, but the result of a complex, and sometimes unpredictable, interplay between cultural, social, political, regulatory and economic factors.

– Miriam Ricci Senior Research Fellow, UWE