VENTURER Trial 1 Results: Planned Handover

The VENTURER consortium’s first trial, completed in the summer of 2016, explored how people interact with autonomous vehicle technology. The trial took place at Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and on the roads at the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) campus. Using the UWE driving simulator and the BAE Systems Wildcat, VENTURER sought to further understand planned handover with drivers of varying levels of experience, in environments and at speeds typical of day to day driving in urban areas.

Planned handover is when control of a vehicle is transferred from an autonomous system to the manual driver after an auditory handover request. The request is planned rather than an unplanned emergency, representing a situation where the vehicle knows it is approaching a situation it is not capable of handling, for example approaching a section of road with multiple hazards that the vehicle might not be able to process and respond to. This reflects vehicle capability at Levels 3/4 of vehicle autonomy (SAE, 2014).

VENTURER believe that understanding the process of handover is key to informing current debates on the future configuration of autonomous driving systems. The preliminary data from the project’s first trial can help frame the specifications for autonomous driving control systems and their safe operation when there is the option for both autonomous and manual driving control. Thorough understanding of this area is crucial as this may be the situation during the initial phases of deployment of AVs onto UK roads.

To investigate this, 50 participants undertook experiments in the UWE driving simulator and/or the BAE Systems Wildcat in order to form a comparison of the handover process across multiple platforms. We believe that this research is unique in that it was the first trial to directly compare handover back to manual driving from autonomous mode across both driving simulator and road vehicle platforms during short driving scenarios with fairly frequent handover requests. The findings of the study are outlined and explored in the documents below.

Download the Trial 1 Summary Report here: VENTURER Trial 1 Planned Handover – Summary

Download the full Trial 1 Technical Report here: VENTURER Trial 1 Planned Handover – Technical Report

Interactions between a driverless car and other vehicles at junctions – an overview of Trial 2

VENTURER will undertake three trials in order to asses user responses to driverless cars. The first of these trials has now been concluded and the results will be published online in June 2017

Trial 2 will test our autonomous vehicle interacting with other vehicles at junctions on the University of the West of England campus. Trial 2 will also involve participant trials in which we will consider user responses to the emerging technology.

You can keep up to date on the trial’s progress by following us on Twitter (@Venturer_cars) and by keeping an eye out for new blogs on the website.

The Economic Impact of CAVs in the West of England

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) present an interesting conundrum in the West of England. Depending on the view point, CAV can be seen as an industry, cluster, technology or application. In essence, it is an amalgamation of all the above. The prevailing technology that has enabled CAV research and development (R&D) projects such as VENTURER to emerge has been around for a number of years, exploited in part by VENTURER partners. Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL) for example, has been developing robotics and autonomous systems since the early noughties. BAE Systems on the other hand, has been developing the Wildcat (a defence based vehicle with autonomous capability) over a similar timeline. So what’s new with CAV now and specifically, what value can VENTURER add? Well, the adoption of CAV technology on a widespread level has yet to be embraced, partly due to the fact that there are only a limited number of new vehicles with Level 4 autonomous capability (there are however, lots of new vehicles available in the UK market with driver assistance technology such as smart city braking or lane departure assist).

The opportunity for the West of England therefore, is to be the first mover and UK leader in developing innovative Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and Artificial Intelligence/Human Machine Learning technology that can be fed into every part of the development and supply chain. No longer are we confined to technology readiness levels (TRL) 1-7 but Innovate UK funded R&D projects such as VENTURER provide platforms for technology to be developed which can be market exploitable and ultimately, commercially viable (TRL 8-10 for example). The Economic Impact Study VENTURER commissioned outlined that with a little more coordinated thinking and concerted effort, we have every chance to create the Gross Value Added (GVA) and jobs target as outlined at VENTURER’s inception phase. Using our initial analysis of what defines CAV, it’s clear to see a cluster definitely exists. There are a number of entities in the region all subsumed with CAV R&D as well as developing market ready technology (i.e. Fusion Processing, another VENTURER partner). CAV as a technology is reflected in the region through the expertise being developed at BRL and University of Bristol. Application wise, the local councils are keen to capitalise on the actual use of this technology on the local highway network (enabling people to get to work quicker and stress free for example, thus positively influencing productivity).

In summary, there are a number of direct and indirect economic impacts that CAV development and eventual deployment in the West of England region will achieve but the intrinsic benefits of this ever emerging technology/cluster/application/industry are yet to be clearly defined and indeed, embraced. One thing is for certain, the principle of innovation and technology in creating new commercial opportunities is something any stakeholder will relish. The West of England therefore, with its existing capabilities and competencies in high tech, digital and advanced engineering can creatively nurture this to happen by influencing new jobs, efficiency savings and catalysing new products and services.

 

By Abdul Choudhury – Economic Development Officer, South Gloucestershire Council

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.