Opening the first of three scoping events to capture the views of industry and academia on suitable next steps for developing UK expertise in connected and autonomous vehicles, Rob Furlong remarked on an “overwhelming response” it produced. Over 300 expressions of interest to attend were received overall.
Indeed, the degree of interest in the subject, the complexity of the issues that arise and the divergence of interests that inter-connect were themes of the Milton Keynes Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Stakeholder Workshop, organised by KTN and hosted by Transport Systems Catapult.
A full sitting of over 80 industry experts at the Transport Systems Catapult induced in lively and engaged debate, and fertile development of ideas within a structure of five directed workshop discussions, that teased out the challenges, opportunities and priorities for action.
The wisdom in the room benefited from expertise in vehicle engineering, telematics, cyber security, OEMs, transport services, wireless technologies, mapping services, virtual engineering, networking, internet of things, radio communications of various flavours, autonomous vehicles testing and simulation, ITS, social sciences and more. There was also a smattering of respected academics, participants already engaged in existing connected and autonomous vehicles projects and many considering entry to it, with an eye for proposing their own ideas or angles.
Some around the eight tables represented brands with household names. Some, such as those with military interests, played cards closer to their chests, but there was no shortage of suggestions for where future CCAV investments could add value.
Eight ‘mini think tanks’, ten or eleven per table, were prompted through a trajectory of open questions to help develop an industry view on the options for where the next CCAV competition could focus investments — guided and captured by KTN (and guest) facilitators.
If you multiply the output of the five workshops by eight tables you‘ll appreciate there’s already plenty of material for the Centre of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to chew over.
And that’s just for starters.
Setting the scene
Austen Okonweze, Head of Research and Development at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), said the government wants to make the UK the number one place for development and use of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies, “because it will be a game changer for the UK as a country”.
CCAV supports an open approach to testing, without over—regulating — and without the need for a permit or limitations on which roads are used.
He claimed the UK as possessing a “massively rich” R&D system, plus world leading expertise in cyber—policy, and a rich heritage in security.
The government is keen to support the burden of R&D where possible - and having already supported a number of projects it’s keen to add to that portfolio.
This event, he said, is “a big opportunity to shape where this is spent in the next 12 months. Today will have a big say in what the next competition sounds like. We want see innovation that’s achievable - and we want for the rest of the world to say ‘wow’, and to talk about it.”
Summary of work to date
Paul Gadd, Programme Manager at Innovate UK, reviewed government investment to date in connected and autonomous vehicles.
In 2014/2015, through the competition Introducing driverless cars to UK roads, around £20 million in total was invested in three projects to test driverless vehicles in real world conditions in four cities.
In 2015 the government announced a £100 million investment fund for Research and Development of Intelligent Mobility, and subsequently formed the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
Then in 2015/2016, £20 million was invested from that fund into 21 R&D and feasibility projects selected from proposals for the first Connected and autonomous vehicles competition, designed to stimulate developments in autonomous vehicles and connected transport systems.
In addition, £10 million is being invested to improved efficiency and customer experience through the Enhancing the ‘End to End Journey’ competition.
A second Connected and autonomous vehicles competition will be held in Q3, as per the Innovate UK delivery plan
“KTN has put in a lot of work (for this), and we’re excited to see how things develop”.
Introduction to the Design Approach
Ahead of the first workshop, Barry Waddilove, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Design, proposed framing consideration of connected and autonomous vehicles in terms of solving problems for people.
“This design approach”, said Barry, “focuses on real people and real behaviours”.
To help the practitioners to think of ways that connected and autonomous vehicles could solve problems in new ways, Barry presented some example design concepts that illustratie how driverless cars could, just perhaps, become useful parts of people’s lives - such as enabling commuters to work while commuting and elderly people to enjoy a ‘mystery tour’ day out by themselves.
These were intended to stimulate discussion on problems to be solved, rather than to be taken literally.
The state of play with the three ‘Introducing driverless cars to UK roads’ demonstrator projects was described between workshops.
Mark Ledsom of Transport Systems Catapult updated on the Milton Keynes based UK Autodrive consortium trials, now progressing to more complex scenarios, and trying out various communications technologies, such as 4G and mesh networks. TSC is planning to test two vehicle configurations: the LUTZ Pathfinder two seater and a 4 to 6 seater.
Nick Reed of TRL updated on progress with the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project, now operating around O2 Arena precincts, although not yet in autonomous mode.
Members of the public now have the opportunity to register to try out the vehicles and thousands of responses have been received since the registration opened in May.
GATEway is taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab @ Greenwich and led by TRL.
Nick’s advice for future CCAV projects was to prepare for public engagement in light of the attention generated by this project, and to also be sufficiently agile to makes changes as progress in this subject is rapid.
Rebecca Tommey, representing the Bristol and South Gloucestershire based Venturer project, also stressed the need to be able to deal with public interest. Venturer held its Media & Showcase Event on 24 May 2016 that previewed activities for the coming year.
VENTURER is focusing on people’s responses as well as the technology; researchers at the University of West of England are to address the social context of autonomous vehicles by seeking to understand barriers to adoption.
The first tests will take place at the University of West of England campus from July 2016, looking at the handover process where the user needs to re-take control from autonomous modes. Further testing will then take place in South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Centre during 2017 and 2018.
“Standards can help” was the message from Alan Peters of TSC, and Nick Fleming of BSI.
Alan Peters described a joint initiative between CCAV, Transport Systems Catapult and BSI (British Standards Institution), considering the current ‘standards landscape’ for connected and autonomous vehicles.
Phase 1 is mapping the landscape, then a review of other countries’ standards, and then a targeted standards workshop, questionnaires and interviews, with the output being a prioritised actionable roadmap, for contributing to and development of standards.
They will “need some involvement” in the project in due course with the workshop due in August, and questionnaires to stakeholders, plus structured interviews led by BSI.
Call for Evidence on UK CAV testing ecosystem.
Austen Okonweze took the opportunity to alert attendees to CCAV’s recent Call for evidence on the UK testing ecosystem for connected and autonomous vehicles.
This survey looks to identify any gaps and additional opportunities presented by the testing already underway, particularly concerning a potential ‘flagship’ facility, the proposed characteristics of which is outlined in the accompanying document to the call (liked above).
The call for evidence closes on 31 July 2016.
Concluding the workshop, Paul Gadd of Innovate UK said the government was keen to offer the best return for the taxpayer in any connected and autonomous vehicles competition.
The timetable for the second competition is not yet set but indications were given to be on track for Q3, as stated in Innovate UK delivery plan.
Reflecting on the event he chaired, Rob Furlong added, “The response form the participants was amazing, and everyone in the room worked hard throughout the day. Energy was positive, and people left feeling that they had really contributed to the process”.