There has been a burgeoning of Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) activity at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) following our involvement in the VENTURER project, which was led by Atkins and involved a range of partners from across academia and industry. This activity was reviewed recently at a West of England Robotics Network event held in November 2019, as part of the VENTURER Alliance initiative that was created in July 2018. VENTURER has led directly to six more Innovate UK-funded CAV project involvements for BRL, four of which are still active.
There has been a gradual shift in emphasis of our involvement that, to a certain extent, mirrors the development in research and design emphasis of the field in general over the last five or six years. One of these is the move from a focus on assessing the performance and acceptability of individual vehicles, to the interactions of those vehicles as groups, with each other and the data infrastructure. Another move is from real-world testing to verification and validation of CAV safety using simulation techniques. The former change is, to a large extent, a reflection of the ongoing maturity of the field; whilst the latter is largely due to the very large number of miles that would have to be traversed by a real CAV to stand a reasonable chance of it coming across all of the critical interaction scenarios where it must be shown to behave safely. This latter activity has also matured into a quite heavy involvement with standards agencies and regulators, backed up by input from the legal and insurance sector, a necessity acknowledged right from the start with the inclusion of ACA and Burges Salmon in the VENTURER project and other early UK government-funded CAV projects.
The future for CAVs is still somewhat uncertain, but the UK remains at the forefront of the R&D scene in this sector – a situation that is, in good part, due to UK Government investment in the sector across the industry-academia divide. In the future, Bristol Robotics Laboratory will continue to undertake research, in collaboration with organisations from across the sector, to further the UK’s position in the CAV R&D market.
Authored by Professor Tony Pipe, Bristol Robotics Laboratory