The Development and testing of autonomous vehicle technology is only one aspect of introducing driverless cars to UK roads. The other core element is focused on understanding the needs of the end-user.
Making driverless vehicles a reality will therefore rely on the willingness of the user to embrace and trust the technology. As a result, VENTURER seeks to obtain a deeper understanding of the requirements and challenges of integrating driverless vehicles into urban environments.
Trial 1 of the project engaged a number of participants in an effort to gather their reaction during the handover process. By interviewing a small sample of participating drivers, following the completion of testing on the BAE Wildcat vehicle, we found that participants were mostly excited by the new technology. Although, there were remnants of nervousness and the uncertainty of what to expect when the vehicle was in full control of their ‘journey’.
“I was always monitoring the distances of the car with respect to pavements and other cars and was constantly monitoring mirrors as I couldn’t totally rely on the car; but the vehicle behaved pretty much as if it was human driven.” (Respondent 1)
Feedback further indicated that participants began to feel more relaxed as the trial progressed.
“I was quite worried at first but as the experiment progressed I began to trust the self-driving ability and became more at ease.” (Respondent 2)
The first tranche of the project will be completed in September 2016; and interestingly, participants are keen for the VENTURER consortium to test how drivers will cope with “a changeover after an extended period of autonomy or deal with distractions.” (Respondent 3). VENTURER will explore a range of challenges as the programme evolves.
Undoubtedly, these responses and the involvement of end-users throughout the project will play a key role in facilitating change that can better meet the needs of future drivers.
*For the purpose of this article, participants will remain anonymous.
Authored by: Rebecca Tommey, Atkins