VENTURER Trial 3 Bus Demonstration

In March, VENTURER undertook an on-road demonstration of a driverless car interacting with a bus. The innovative trial was the first of its kind and took place on Long Mead in South Gloucestershire, a 30mph bus only road that follows the south west perimeter of UWE’s Frenchay campus.

The bus demonstration represented a step change in technical, safety and management challenges due to its location on an open road and the resulting potential for interactions with members of the public and their vehicles.

The success of the demonstration showcases VENTURER’s expertise in delivering safe and innovative real-world tests of a range of connected and autonomous technologies.

The bus demonstration was an aspect of VENTURER’s third and final trial which has been examining a connected and autonomous vehicle’s (CAVs) interactions with other road users including buses, pedestrians and cyclists.

A report summarising the achievements of the Trial 3 Bus Demonstration is available here.

The results of the Trial 3 Participant Experiments, which tested trust in CAV interactions with pedestrians and cyclists, will be launched at VENTURER’s final showcase in June 2018.

You can see the Trial 3 Bus Demonstration and Participant Experiments in action here.

AXA and Burges Salmon call for new standards to govern autonomous driving

The latest VENTURER report from insurer AXA and law firm Burges Salmon has revealed how new standards for vehicles that can switch between autonomous and human driving will be vital in deciding who is liable for an accident during the ‘handover’ period.

The Government’s Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will eventually create a list of vehicles that will be considered ‘automated’, with liability to third parties falling on insurers. However, there will be many vehicles coming to market in the future which will allow the driver to ‘handover’ control to the vehicle and vice versa. This could create a grey area for liability, especially if an accident happens during the ‘handover’ between driver and vehicle.

The current law expects the driver to be responsible for the vehicle at all times. This creates issues if there is a time lag in the driver regaining effective control after the vehicle has been driving autonomously.

This report, the second in a series of three looking at insurance and legal aspects linked to the VENTURER trials, recommends that government and industry take account of the issues encountered by drivers during the handover phase. It calls for new standards that reflect the real-world capability of drivers and avoid stifling the development of automated vehicles by unfairly penalising motorists.  Manufacturers will need to design in safety and develop handover processes that reflect the reality of drivers’ capabilities.

Read the full report here: VENTURER Insurance and Legal Report 2017/18

#VENTURERNextGen Competition!

We are keen to build on the wealth of driverless car expertise in the region by engaging with the leaders of tomorrow. VENTURER wants to educate students about the future possibilities of driverless cars as well as the potential career paths they might be interested in taking within STEM. A number of consortium partners are already involved in a range of STEM activities and are experienced in guiding students. Therefore, we have developed a cross-curricular activity to get students thinking about STEM and the impact it could have on their everyday lives.

The competition:

This competition is designed to engage schools in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire region with innovative projects that are shaping the future of transport in their local area.

The competition is open to those in years 3, 4, 5 and 6. To enter, students must tell us either:

  • What they think children’s journeys to school would look like in 2050; or
  • What kind of vehicles they think will be used in 2050.

The entries can be in any format or style, some examples include:

  • A drawing/painting
  • A short essay
  • A recorded presentation
  • A model

The prizes:

Entries will be shortlisted and then judged by Deputy Directors from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. The winning student will receive family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) to We the Curious ( and will have the opportunity to witness a driverless car in action at their school. The runner up and 3rd place will also receive family tickets to We the Curious.

All entries will be submitted into a random prize draw to receive tickets for their school class to visit Aerospace Bristol: The new home of Concorde ( (up to £500 of tickets).

How to enter:

All entries should be sent by post, email or tweet to:

Bella Slawin,

Transportation, Atkins,

500 Park Avenue,

Aztec West,

BS32 4RZ



@Venturer_Cars with the hashtag #VENTURERNextGen


Entries must be received by the 18th May 2018 to be considered. All entries must include a name and details of the relevant school and class.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers

On Wednesday 7th March my colleague, Imogen, and I attended an event aimed at encouraging primary school children to be involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects and to consider a career in engineering. The event was held at the University of the West of England and is part of a project being run by the university’s Department of Education and Childhood and the Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics. The Exhibition and Conference Centre played host to 380 primary school children from nine schools from Bristol and South Gloucestershire for the morning.

There was a huge range of activities and demonstrations for the children to engage with, ranging from building bridges using large foam blocks and flying drones to exploring infrared temperature sensors. The children visited the different activities in groups of around 10 and rotated throughout the morning. All of the activities on offer gave the children a flavour of the many different aspects to a career in engineering.

Only 5% of primary school teachers have a science-related degree[1], and research has found that children, especially girls, develop their attitude towards STEM as a possible career before the age of 11[2] – facts like these form the central argument for why events like this are being run.

Robotics in particular has been identified as being effective in STEM teaching, as it enforces the physical concepts of engineering and technology and helps to remove some of the abstractness of mathematics and science[3]. To enforce this point, we brought the robotic ‘Twizy’ vehicle to the event and allowed the children to explore the vehicle.

The ‘Twizy’ (pictured below) is a passenger vehicle manufactured by Renault, which has been adapted by one of the VENTURER partners, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, to be remotely controlled. The Twizy can operate in standard controlled mode and can also be operated using a handheld controller.

When the children were exploring the Twizy, we initiated discussions about Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) by asking them questions regarding their trust in driverless technology, when they think CAV technology will be widely available and what they think some of the barriers to CAV adoption might be. Broadly the children were very trusting when thinking about operating a driverless vehicle, but were slightly less trusting of the technology from the perspective of a cyclist or pedestrian. Some great discussions were taking place, with themes like responsbility for crashes and the appropriateness of driving tests being talked about, which are discussion points being discussed by CAV experts.

STEM outreach and primary school engagement is an important activity for pioneering and innovative industry projects to undertake. Allowing these children to see industry-leading technology being tested and trialled in Bristol and South Gloucestershire should help to inspire them to work on similar projects in the future. Projects like VENTURER, which work alongside academic partners, should exploit their progressive credentials to encourage children to go into engineering. This event allowed VENTURER to engage with Bristol’s future professionals and hopefully has opened their eyes to the possibility of a career in the CAV industry.


Bella Slawin – Atkins


[1] Royal Academy of Engineering 2016

[2] Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017

[3] Kim et al., 2015’_STEM_Engagement_Learning_and_Teaching/links/5787986208aedc252a935ea7/Robotics-to-Promote-Elementary-Education-Pre-service-Teachers-STEM-Engagement-Learning-and-Teaching.pdf

Trial 3 – A Participant’s View

During the months of January and February, VENTURER is undertaking the third and final phase of a series of human factors experiments. Trial 3 is being held at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, involving examining human reactions to the decisions made by an Autonomous Vehicle (AV) at junctions, crossings and overtaking parked cars on link roads. Unlike previous trials as well as interacting with conventional motor vehicles, it is also interacting with pedestrians and cyclists.

Participants in Trial 3 comprise of three different groups. One third are pedestrians who regularly make local journeys on foot and they have been asked to either walk to the trial or to come by public transport and complete their journey on foot. One third are regular cyclists who arrive at the trial on their bike. The final group are drivers with a range of driving experience. All of the participants are engaged in a series of repeated scenarios with the Wildcat autonomous vehicle in the ‘real world’ and the VENTURER Simulator and are asked to rate their ability to trust the decisions made by the vehicles.

The drivers experience the scenarios from within the Wildcat, whereas the pedestrians and cyclists observe the same events from the outside on the footways. In the simulator all participants are in the vehicle and rate their trust in the autonomous simulated vehicle as they encounter the same scenarios as in the Wildcat. Additionally, two-thirds of the participants are also asked to rate their trust in a driver when the car is driven manually.

The scenarios were designed to mirror the experiences of everyday situations on UK roads and included overtaking a parked vehicle with an oncoming cyclist, crossing a zebra crossing and turning right into a junction while detecting passing cyclists and crossing pedestrians, taking the appropriate action as required.

It is expected that the findings from Trial 3 will help to inform future research around Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ (CAVs) abilities to integrate with other traffic on UK roads, including more vulnerable users such as people on foot and cyclists.

Two of the participants that have taken part in Trial 3 are Miriam, who has been making local journeys on foot for more than 20 years and Luke, a young driver with four and a half years’ experience.

Both Miriam and Luke expected CAV’s to be safer, with fewer accidents. Miriam added that “they will possibly encourage people not to have private cars, but to make it more of a shared thing, especially if people begin to think of transport in a different way.”

On the subject of safety, Luke noted that “when the driverless car approached crossing pedestrians and cyclists its speed and stopping distances were more appropriate than many drivers on the roads”. Miriam expressed that she felt very safe in the driverless car and the trial made her realise how unsafe she has felt at times when being driven by others.

As someone who has never owed or driven a car Miriam said that she would probably not like to own an AV, but “I would probably use them if they became part of public transport”. Luke, a professional musician, could see himself either owning or using a driverless car as it: “would definitely be better than having the responsibility of being behind the wheel myself. It would also be useful getting back from late night gigs and if you wanted a drink it would still drive you home.”

Although they were willing to embrace CAVs, both trial participants acknowledged that there are a number of barriers before this technology is widely accepted. Miriam pointed out that “some people are worried about giving control to what are essentially robots and generally people don’t accept that driving is dangerous”. Luke reflected that “the nature of our society at the moment is based around cars. The infrastructure such as drives in front of our houses assumes private car ownership, but at least initially private ownership of AVs will be too expensive”. So, a lot still needs to change before the full benefits that CAVs could bring are realised.

AV Interactions with Buses, Cyclists and Pedestrians – A VENTURER Trial 3 Overview

VENTURER has so far undertaken two trials, where both planned handover and interactions between an AV and other vehicles have been explored. The results of both of these trials can be found on the VENTURER website.

Trial 3 will commence this week, where participants will be rating their trust of an autonomous vehicle, while it interacts with pedestrians and cyclists. The Wildcat will be undertaking these tasks while navigating junctions and link roads, ensuring a variety of realistic road conditions are tested.

For more information click the link to the infographic below!

Trial 3 Infographic

Do We Trust Autonomous Vehicles?

Professor John Parkin discusses the VENTURER Autonomous Vehicles project and the results of trials to assess the human response to the artificial intelligence decision making system.

Are humans ready to defer decisions to artificial intelligence? 

There’s something about the grass being greener on the other side. This always makes us want to move on, not only to new places but to the future as well. As if to assist us in this quest, technology consistently offers something to surprise and delight. So, when we couple technological ‘moving on’ with more prosaic physical ‘moving on to new places’ through transport, we are doubly delighted. This double delight perhaps explains the frenzy of interest in autonomous vehicle (AV) technology.

We also need, though, to hold before us the visions that we would want to move on to. This is because it is we, as humans, who will continue to live in the places we create. Comfortable, attractive and safe probably sum up a helpful vision for our public realm. Thinking more broadly and responsibly, we need to also ensure the vision is sustainable and meets everybody’s needs.

The AV ‘Great leap’ forward

The tech giants are making rapid advances towards a ‘great leap’ forward in autonomous vehicle control using ‘artificial intelligence’. Waymo has already announced it will be offering an AV taxi service without a safety driver. By contrast, the car companies are incrementally introducing autonomous features such as Volkswagen’s lane keeping, and they are also developing communications technologies between vehicles, and with infrastructure.

So to what end, and to support what vision, is the technology directed? The first line of many government publications on the subject suggests it is better safety. This would satisfy one requirement of a responsible vision for the future. Industry and commerce no doubt are also interested in cost cutting by re-deployment of staff. The tech giants and the car companies want to respectively gain and maintain automotive market share. And thinking about the users, we have found from our work on the VENTURER project that there appear to be many who would gladly give up the daily grind of drive-commuting and hand over to technology.

The safety gains of an autonomous vehicle less fallible than a human driver need to be demonstrated. In order to be safer than current drivers, AVs will need to obey the rules, maintain appropriate headways, and only accept safe gaps when making manoeuvres. In urban areas they will need to recognise and defer appropriately to other legitimate road users including pedestrians, cyclists and, presuming they remain legal, other motor vehicles driven by humans.

Trials of an AV’s decision management system

Trust is a measure of the perception a person has of the safety of technology. The second trial of the Innovate UK funded VENTURER project has been assessing the trust of people being driven in an AV using a decision management system developed as part of the project.

Participants were driven around a loop on the campus roads at the University of the West of England, Bristol, in the Wildcat AV which interacted with other cars. The participants experienced the same conditions in the VENTURER Simulator. Trust was measured for all give way turning movements at a T-junction, both with and without an on-coming vehicle. Other events included driving along a road, and overtaking a parked car, again with and without and on-coming vehicle.

The gap at the T-junction offered to the AV was the gap that half of drivers would accept, and hence complete the turn, and half of drivers would reject, i.e. wait for the on-coming vehicle to pass through the junction before making the turn.

Results of the trials

Based on the behaviour of the decision management system and the particular conditions as part of the trial, we found that trust scores were high. Overall, these scores were validated against a battery of psychometric scores also completed by the participants linked with general trust in technology. We found lower trust scores when the AV accepted the gap in the VENTURER Simulator than when the AV rejected the gap. We noted that neither driver age nor experience affected the trust ratings.

We recognise that many of the comparisons, and findings of significant and non-significant differences between the events in the trial may be related to the specific behaviour of the decision management system in the situations tested. The trial demonstrates, however, that we have a methodology to identify differences in trust by event type.

Planning for the third trial

We continue to plan for the third trial which will discover how other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, trust the AV in similar situations to those tested in the second trial.

So, will the technology enable our best visions for the future, or might it possibly corrupt better alternative visions? Safety in the urban environment is enhanced when the environment, i.e. the infrastructure, is designed to control speed. Coupled with this, we can engineer our public realm to be a rather beautiful space for humans.

So far as the vehicle is concerned, we could today mandate for speed limited vehicles and vehicles limited in their acceleration. On the current trajectory of government and industrial interest, however, it seems likely we will be required to wait until AVs appear on our streets to achieve these safety gains. Can we wait that long for technology to be cautious on our behalf? Whatever, the grass will always be greener on the other side.

Professor John Parkin CEng FICE FCIHT

VENTURER Trial 2 Results: Interactions Between Autonomous Vehicles and Other Vehicles on Links and at Junctions

VENTURER’s second trial, which examined an autonomous vehicle’s (AV) interactions in typical highway scenarios, was completed in summer 2017. The trial took place at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and on the roads at the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) campus. Using the VENTURER Simulator and the autonomous Wildcat, VENTURER sought to further understand user responses to AV technology as well as to validate AV decision making strategies and sensor technology during interactions with other vehicles, on road links and at junctions.

Demonstrating that AVs are able to safely navigate different highway situations including interactions with other vehicles is a crucial aspect of ensuring that AVs will be safe for deployment onto UK roads. VENTURER identified that some of the most complex driving situations occur in urban areas and include requirements for safe interactions at junctions, on road links and often involve reacting to the decisions of other vehicles.

To fully investigate these situations, different phases of experiment were included to establish whether participants’ trust ratings varied dependent on the type of AV scenario they experienced, if their trust scores were significantly different depending on the platform and how their trust scores correlated with relevant validated psychometric test scores. All testing and trials conducted by VENTURER comply with the Department for Transport’s Code of Practice for AV testing.

The findings of the study are outlined and explored in the documents below.

Download the Trial 2 Summary Report here: VENTURER Trial 2 – Summary Report

Download the full Trial 2 Technical Report here: VENTURER Trial 2 – Technical Report

Autumn Budget – An encouraging outlook for the future of driverless cars

Strangely, a widely trailed Budget pledge which didn’t make the Chancellor’s speech today may be one of the most important for the future of British manufacturing and the economy. Automated vehicles have enormous potential for UK plc as well as for our society more broadly, saving lives and offering transport solutions to people currently unable to drive.

We were expecting a big announcement. However, although the Chancellor’s speech did not mention this specifically – page 46 (4.16) of the Autumn Budget contained a section that is hugely encouraging for everyone working on projects such as VENTURER and also showcases the value of these trials to the advancement of CAV technology:

The government wants to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021. The government will therefore make world-leading changes to the regulatory framework, such as setting out how driverless cars can be tested without a human safety operator. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will also launch a new innovation prize to determine how future roadbuilding should adapt to support self-driving cars.

Thinking back, my first recollection of the Government’s intention in this area was noted with a single sentence in the Treasury’s 2013 National Infrastructure Plan which set aside an initial £10 million for the testing of ‘driverless vehicles’.

This led to AXA’s first meeting in the summer of 2014 at the offices of the Bristol City Council, with what would later become the VENTURER project. Whilst prospective partners were excited about the potential of the technology, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that only three years later, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be setting 2021 as the target for getting connected and autonomous vehicles on UK roads.

It should be emphasised at this point, I think, that the reason for the Treasury’s confidence in setting this date, is partly down to the work many people have put in across the country on VENTURER and other similar projects.

From AXA’s perspective, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill making its way through Parliament at the moment provides the foundation for an evolving insurance and legal framework which will be capable of changing as more advancements are made in this area.

We absolutely back the Bill and believe it is right not to over legislate at this stage. After all, if the desire is to see the UK at the forefront of this market, then the last thing we should be doing is stifling innovation.

As it stands, the Bill will provide an effective strict liability on insurers to pay out in the event of an accident involving an automated vehicle. This is hugely important for consumer trust; safety and the compensation of those injured remain at the core of the legislation.

Yes, we have questions to answer in terms of the length of handover from vehicle to a human driver and vice versa and on how data will be collected and shared with third parties, such as insurers, to process a claim as quickly as possible. There are also the new and emerging risks such as cyber-security to consider as we progress.

That’s why projects like VENTURER are really important. They allow a broad consortium of academics, local authorities, technology companies, engineering experts, roboticists and yes, lawyers and insurers too, to come together to test and validate all aspects of automated vehicles.

The pace of change is truly rapid! Today’s Budget absolutely confirms that and if you don’t believe me just think what you would have made of this blog had it been written only a few years ago. 2021 is not far away at all!

Daniel O’Byrne

Head of Public Affairs, AXA


Willingness to Share and Pay for Autonomous Vehicles

In the last months, the VENTURER social research team has undertaken and analysed a survey of South Gloucestershire and Bristol residents on the willingness to share and pay for autonomous vehicles. Survey respondents were using the different urban transport modes available in roughly the same proportions to that of the Bristol-South Gloucestershire population. Respondents were presented with four possible types of autonomous vehicle, all operating completely without a driver, to gauge their interest. This included:

  • a privately-owned and used car;
  • an exclusively used taxi on demand;
  • a shared taxi which would be lower cost to use than an exclusive taxi; and
  • an autonomous bus which would be smaller and more frequent than typical buses today.

To read more click here.