Ground-breaking driverless car project releases final research findings – VENTURER collaboration highlights value of user-focused approach to innovation

September 4, 2018: The VENTURER project has today released its final report, detailing key learnings from the £5m government co-funded driverless car project, which was based in the West of England and concluded in June 2018.

The three-year research and development project explored the barriers to the adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in the UK and how best they could be overcome. To do this, the consortium – a rich partnership of organisations including large and small businesses, universities and local authorities – adopted a uniquely multi-disciplinary and user-led approach, focusing on the safe trialling and testing of CAV technology, engagement with the public and a review of the regulatory environment.

Carolyn Mitchell, VENTURER Project Manager and Transport Planning Practice Manager at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, said: “One of the first research and development projects to explore the future of connected and autonomous vehicles on the UK road network, VENTURER’s findings challenge the status quo, shining a spotlight on what users want from driverless cars, how they can be safely implemented and what government and insurers need to do to make sure the UK is CAV-ready.”

Key findings from the report


Over 200 participants took part in the VENTURER trials, which established a safe testing methodology using both simulated and controlled road network environments. With robust and comparable results across testing in simulated and real-world settings, VENTURER demonstrated the validity of employing this dual approach to assess user responses to CAV technology in a wide variety of settings.

One key focus was planned handover between autonomous driving systems and the human driver, as would be required to achieve Level 3 vehicle autonomy1. Findings suggest that it takes the average driver three seconds to retake control of the vehicle and longer to regain and maintain baseline manual driving performance. Micro-simulation modelling indicates handover events could equate to an additional delay of as much as 20% on the highway network.

These findings suggest that:

  • Considering the handover task and typical road speeds, urban roads might lend themselves to early Level 3 CAV adoption, although this suitability needs to be evaluated in the context of the greater complexity of urban highway environments, including the presence of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Additional research is needed to better understand the impact that the introduction of CAVs could have on traffic flow and the operation of the wider transport network – including an examination of planned handover at Level 4+ autonomy2.

The trials also revealed a preference for CAVs to demonstrate more cautious driving behaviours, which could have significant implications for the future of the UK transport network. If CAVs were to drive more cautiously than the average human driver, they may create a traffic-calming effect on the network, resulting in safety benefits where there are both autonomous and manually driven vehicles. Greater consistency in gap acceptance behaviour3 may also optimise road capacity and reduce congestion.

The user

Trial participants reported consistently high trust ratings in CAVs. While positive, this also indicates a need for ongoing engagement with the public, plus ever more complex testing in real-world scenarios, to ensure that the vehicles’ capabilities are fully understood. Trust levels remained consistent for all represented participant groups: pedestrian, cyclist and driver. This finding is reinforced by VENTURER’s social research, which shows the public has a growing understanding of the potential benefits – and risks – of the adoption of CAVs.

The social research also highlighted differences both in the levels of understanding between people and the diversity of views shared, reinforcing the importance of ongoing information sharing and debate.

When it comes to user preferences, the research revealed that people were most willing to use and pay for an individual driverless vehicle and the least willing to use and pay for a shared driverless vehicle – an important learning to consider when examining how future CAV operating and business models develop. An understanding of potential demand for CAVs is crucial to exploring how CAVs will be integrated into the wider transport network.

Legal and insurance

The VENTURER findings informed the development of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, a key piece of legislation required for the wider adoption of CAVs in the UK. Key insurance and legal recommendations for insurers, the CAV industry and regulators to consider include:

  • Legal and insurance definitions of automated vehicles
  • Standards for the capture, retention and use of CAV data
  • Clarifying the regulatory and industry approach to SAE Level 31 vehicles
  • New standards and regulations for automated vehicles
  • How to embed safety and the consumer at the centre of a complex technical environment
  • Reform of civil and criminal law to take CAVs into account.

Next steps

The success of the project is being continued by the VENTURER Alliance. The VENTURER Alliance will use the expertise and capabilities acquired during the project to continue to support the ongoing design, trialling, integration and deployment of CAVs on the transport network and to manage the impacts on society and infrastructure.

Nathan Marsh, Chair of the VENTURER Alliance Board and Intelligent Mobility Director at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, said: “This comprehensive final report from the VENTURER project contains important findings which will help us all to progress from research into the implementation, integration and normalisation of CAVs in the UK. The VENTURER Alliance is committed to working in collaboration to progress these learnings and we are incredibly proud to lead this initiative.”

To read the VENTURER final report or to find out more about the VENTURER Alliance, please see

– ENDS –

Notes to Editor:

  • The VENTURER project, which was led by Atkins, concluded in June 2018.
  • Definitions:
    • SAE Level 3 – Conditional Driving Automation1:
    • Vehicle can under specified circumstances assume full driving function. The Audi A8 L model (offered from late 2018) will be the first production model to be considered to offer SAE Level 3 autonomy through its ‘traffic jam pilot’ but as the name suggests it is only to be used in very limited circumstances including relatively low speed operation (60kph) and benign road conditions (SAE Internationals Recommended Practice J3016, 2016-09)
    • SAE Level 4 – High Automation2:
    • Vehicle can under specified circumstances assume full driving functions without the
      need for driver intervention (SAE Internationals Recommended Practice J3016, 2016-09)
    • Critical gap3:
    • The time gap to an approaching vehicle at a junction that half of drivers would accept and half would reject (VENTURER Trial 2 Report).
  • To find out more about the achievements of the project, please see:
  • The VENTURER Alliance is made up of the original founding members of the project: Atkins (a member of the SNC-Lavalin group), AXA UK, BAE Systems, Bristol City Council, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Burges Salmon LLP,  Fusion Processing, South Gloucestershire Council, University of Bristol, University of the West of England and Williams Advanced Engineering
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