Over the weekend of 4 – 6 August VENTURER teamed up with the GATEway project as part of the Festival of What If, hosted by the At-Bristol Science Centre, to showcase driverless technology to the public.
The event focused on the future of transport and represented a first for the VENTURER consortium by partnering with the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) project led by TRL. GATEway is based in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London and has similar objectives to VENTURER including exploring public perception and understanding of Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).
Both projects are using virtual simulations and physical test beds in order to better understand the legal and technical challenges of implementing automated vehicles in urban environments, with VENTURER testing the on-road Wildcat vehicle in a range of increasingly complex urban environments. They are also looking to analyse and influence public understanding and acceptance of CAVs with GATEway focusing on first and last mile transportation and urban deliveries and VENTURER looking at on-road autonomy issues including handover of control.
The highlight of the three-day outdoor event was the GATEway driverless pod, built by Westfield Sportscars Ltd using the original Heathrow design and equipped with 3D imaging and location sensors developed by Bristol-based company Fusion Processing. A large area on Millennium Square was cordoned off to allow for the pod to perform a ‘figure of eight’ loop, which, despite the varying weather conditions, drew the attention of many members of the public visiting the harbourside.
Also popular with families was the Wildcat which they could get up close to in order to inspect the many sensors it has. Staff from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), Bristol City Council and Atkins were on hand to explain how the technology works and to provide more information about the VENTURER project.
Visitors were also able to sit in the stationary Renault Twizy which was brought along by the BRL. It was, however, most impressive when it was being driven autonomously in ‘no hands’ mode to the delight and confusion of many people on Millennium Square!
Younger visitors were particularly taken with Pepper, a programmable humanoid robot which is able to talk and pick up on the emotions of humans around him as well as MiRo, a puppy robot which would be a great companion for people who either can’t have pets in their homes or who are not mobile enough to take one out every day.
The At-Bristol Science Centre had also designed some engaging activities for children to take part in; one of these involved using a carpet with a city scape seen from above printed on it. Using stickers, children were invited to add information about their ideal mode of transport and then consider how this was comparable to a driverless vehicle. Several of the visiting children also had a ride in the pod and were able to sit in the Renault Twizy as well.
The VENTURER consortium also provided other forms of learning activities, including a series of questions and a quiz using the Big Screen overlooking Millennium Square and there was even a ‘selfie board’ for those who are really big driverless car fans!
– Izzy Kongsgaard, Bristol City Council