A guest blog post by Austen Okonweze, CCAV
Connected and Automated vehicle technologies (CAVs) have the potential to be a real game changer for the automotive sector, altering the face of motoring in many ways. They will make driving easier, allow people to be more productive and offer greater mobility to a wider range of people than ever before. This could lead to improved road safety, reduced emissions, and ease congestion providing significant social, economic and environmental benefits.
That is why Government is supportive of their development and keen to make the UK one of the best places in the world for the research, development and demonstration of CAVs. One way we are doing this is by funding 3 driverless car projects taking place in 4 UK cities – (GateWay in Greenwich- London, UK AutoDrive in Milton Keynes and Coventry and VENTURER in Bristol).
The VENTURER project is truly collaborative with car makers and technology companies working alongside insurance companies, law firms, and local authorities to explore how driverless vehicles and their technologies interact with their environment (the public and other road users).
VENTURER was the first of the three driverless car projects to move from successful simulator trials to road testing – in this case at the University of West England. VENTURER’s first trial tested planned handover of control between a vehicle and driver. This is when the driver knows they might be alerted to take control in certain situations. The trial also measured the driver’s reaction to such a situation at the moment the vehicle switches to driverless mode.
Why is this trial important? Until we have vehicles that are driverless in all environments, we are likely to see vehicles with increased automation that will involve vehicles and humans co-driving. This means it is important to ensure we have a good understanding of how people will react to when they are asked to take back control of the vehicle.
I was one of the lucky few invited to experience the handover trial at the University of the West of England campus
- The demo started with me driving the test vehicle (“The Wildcat”) once round the test circuit to familiarise myself with it. For the second lap I was told that the vehicle would provide an audible indication as to when I could switch to autonomous mode. This happened a quarter of the way through the second lap.
- The exchange from human driver to-autonomous mode was very easy to do – just a flick of a switch, the vehicle carried on driving without any interruption. As the vehicle drove, I got even more comfortable and it was easy to forget I was sitting in a vehicle which was driving itself. However I kept my hands close to the steering wheel in case I had to take back control.
- As the vehicle approached a roundabout I wondered how it would navigate this with other cars around it but again it did this remarkably well.
- When it came to time for me to take back control of the vehicle, it was very easy to do as there was an audible beep and request for me to take back control of the vehicle which I did.
Having experienced this first trial, I cannot wait for what’s next and I am looking forward to the project delivering the next trial in 2017.