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Will driverless cars profoundly improve lives or merely be Spotify on wheels? DTCE15 highlights the research, technologies and legislative impacts

The Driverless Technology Conference and Exhibition (DTCE15), organised by Charles Maxwell Ltd and held at ILEC London, on 23 November, was notable for contributions by speakers from all three projects supported as a result of the Introducing driverless cars to UK roads competition last year. The three projects are underway although none, as yet, have yet operated their driverless test vehicles on their respective city streets.

The GATEway - Greenwich Automated Transport Environment, UK Autodrive - Milton Keynes in partnership with Coventry; and the Britsol and South Gloucestershire VENTURER projects involve a total of 27 participating organisations supported with a combined £17.8 million of government funding to test how driverless cars can be integrated into everyday life.

The trials are required to operate to a DfT code of practice while on the open road, allowing the vehicles to test automation but at all times with a ‘steward’ on board, capable of re-taking control.

Government funding for the three projects is the first drawing from a promised £100 million, set aside for research into driverless vehicles to be coordinated through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), a BIS and DfT joint policy unit.

Aside from insights into early progress of these projects, the most compelling news arising from the conference was notice from Iain Forbes of CCAV that the second use of this fund - for projects arising from the Innovate UK Connected and autonomous vehicles competition for feasibility studies in autonomous vehicles and connected transport systems - could be expected to be announced “before the end of the year”.

The conference was chaired by Lukas Neckermann, author of The Mobility Revolution - Zero Emissions, Zero Accidents, Zero Ownership.



Dr Nick Reed of GATEway

The first presenter was Dr Nick Reed of TRL Limited, lead participant of the GATEway - Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project. Nick reviewed various research efforts currently underway around the world, and highlighted TRL’s expertise in this area that goes back as early as to the 1960s.


The Greenwich based GATEways project, involves TRL Limited, as Lead Participant and also Gobotix Limited, Royal College of Art, Telefónica UK Limited, Royal Borough of Greenwich, University of Greenwich, RSA Insurance Group plc, and Commonplace Digital Limited. In terms of funding support it is the second largest of the three projects with an £8 million budget (£5.4 million of funding support). GATEway will see three public trials of zero emission, automated vehicles. The first will be automated shuttle transport on the Greenwich peninsula. The second will be autonomous valet parking of cars, enabling users to exit their vehicle while it finds a specified parking space autonomously. The third trial is to be defined based on the findings from the other trials and feedback from stakeholders.


Nick referred to the SAE classification classifying degrees of vehicle automation, that has five levels and a dividing line for the driver being ‘in the loop’ between levels two and three. Although Tesla’s recent over-the-air interaction of its Autopilot's capabilities counted as partial (or level 2) automation, lower in the scale than Volvo’s forthcoming level 3 system, Nick was the first of more than one presenter to express concern that this feature seemed to have been introduced with insufficient concern for potential effects of driver inattention.

Presentation - Testing automated vehicles in Greenwich, London: Professor Nick Reed, Transport Research Laboratory Academy Director

Neil Fulton, Transport Systems Catapult, Progress And Trialing The Future

The Transport Catapult led UK Autodrive project involves demonstration of road-going cars and lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised spaces in Milton Keynes and Coventry.


Partners in the programme include JLR, Tata, Ford, RDM, Thales (UK), AXA, Wragge-Lawrence-Graham, Oxford University, Cambridge University, the Open University, and the Transport Systems Catapult. Consulting group Arup has devised the programme and will provide programme management and technical co-ordination.

With £9.2 million of funding support, matched by the 12 consortium members for a £19.2m total budget for the three year project, UK Autodrive has by far the largest amount of spending power of the three projects.

Neil Fulton, of Transport Systems Catapult said the first LUTZ vehicle is currently having sensing equipment fitted in Oxford, and all three vehicles should be ready and operating in Milton Keynes in the new year, with autonomous trials “hopefully in the first quarter of 2016”.

“Chances are”, he said, “things will go wrong”. The consortium, he said, will ensure it safely operates, “But it is a trial of the technology”.

Transport Systems Catapult, Neil Fulton – Programme Director

Tim Armitage, Project Director, UK Autodrive

Tim Armitage, of Arup, stated that the UK Autodrive project intend to operate in a collaborative spirit with the other two projects. The intention is to demonstrate interoperability and scalability, position the UK as a world leader in the technology and prepare cities to be places where new technology can operate by increasing public awareness and acceptance.


He found it “mind blowing” that Tesla had introduced driverless technology “overnight” into its vehicles though an over-the-air update, saying he “couldn’t previously contemplate development at such a pace.”


UK Autodrive is to test cars in mixed traffic, operating fully autonomously for part of the time. “Unless we try to be ambitious we won’t know what the questions will be, never mind the answers.”.

UK Autodrive Milton Keynes leading the way in partnership with Coventry and the motor industry, Tim Armitage

Dr. John McCarthy, Technical Director, VENTURER & Atkins Global

Dr. John McCarthy is Technical Director of the Bristol based VENTURER project, involving Atkins UK, University of Bristol, Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited, First Bristol Limited, Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils, BAE Systems (Operations) Limited, Fusion Processing Limited, University of the West of England, and Axa Insurance UK plc. It was awarded £3,222,120 of funding support.


The consortium proposed that the key barrier to public acceptance is lack of confidence in how people might respond to the type of events that can happen on real roads; including cyclists, pedestrians, and bad drivers. Based on insurance expertise and social research, VENTURER proposed to quantify the response of the public (passengers, road users, pedestrians) to increasing levels of driver assistance.

In nutshell, according to John, “it’s all about how these things come together… and to understand that, we need to test and validate.”

He also emphasised a collaborative approach. “No one expert or company can have all the skills. You need to bring public and private bodies together as one package to reflect the complexity that goes with the problem”, he said.

“Are people going to trust the technology when it’s under stress?".

“Not only will we need to prove the technology, we also need to show people will pay for it. We’re looking at the issue from a user perspective. This cannot just be about the technology, you need to make a difference to people’s lives”.

“Even if you have great technology, what happens when things go wrong? There’s lots of data flowing around. Williams will use their simulators, and companies will be doing virtual and real testing".

“Exploitation issues will also need to be addressed - which will need to be sustainable, including providing a long term operating model".


Iain Forbes, Head of C-CAV, The UK Government approach to connected and autonomous vehicles

As a reminder of the impact on society that changes to technology can produce, CCAV’s Ian Forbes referred to the famously (and incorrectly) feared impendning Victorian London 'horse manure' crisis. “We’re often terrible at predicting the future", he said. "Technology can change things rapidly”.

He viewed the current UK trials in four cities as “hugely exciting”. Furthermore, news of additional government support is imminent, as he hoped that it would be possible to announce successful bids for the Connected and autonomous vehicles competition before the end of the year.

The UK government sees strategic importance in developing connected and autonomous vehicles - for reasons of safety, efficiency, mobility, and productivity.

The main challenges of which are considered to be: 1) Legislation 2) Privacy, Personalisation and Security of Data, and 3) Public acceptance.

Legislation is unlikely to cover all the issues that could arise, so Iain is keen to be informed where this acts as a restraint in the development of technologies. He also thought it important that issues about who owns transport data be debated and to “take the public with us as we develop technologies".

He concluded by saying, "for the UK to stay ahead of the game, we need to work together”.

UK Government approach to connected and autonomous vehicles, Iain Forbes

Joost Vantomme, Public Affairs Director, FEBiAC

Joost Vantomme, Public Affairs Director, FEBiAC said the level of progression in automation in vehicles “goes at a speedy tempo, and the lines are blurring between different concepts”.

FEBIAC represents the interests of Belgium-based manufacturers, importers and suppliers in all areas of road transport. Joost Vantomme said it had “borrowed” ideas from SMMT and the UK Code of Conduct for autonomous vehicles, but sees as important issues the reliability of the network (including net neutrality), security and trust and regulative approaches.

Important principles he sees are technological neutrality; predictability; universal extension; proportionality, subsidiarity and transparency.

He alerted the audience to the a European conference on 14 January 2016 on “DRIVING CONNECTED CARS INTO THE FUTURE” at the European Motor Show in Brussels

Autonomous Driving: Innovation Drives Regulatory Policy Issues Ahead, by Joost Vantomme, Director public affairs FEBIAC

Ben Howarth, Policy Advisor, Motor and Liability, Association of British Insurers

During a panel discussion with Graham Smethurst, of VDA, Ben Howarth said there was wide recognition in the insurance industry that the law needs to change and that the issue of transferring liability is the number one priority. But he said, the support of AEB technology shows it recognises the importance of meeting the challenges of new technologies.


Paul Copping, Smart City Advisor, Digital Greenwich

Session 3 began with Venturer’s John McCarthy joining Paul Copping (Digital Greenwich) and Brian Matthews from Milton Keynes Council on a panel to debate the integrating infrastructure for driverless technologies. Greenwich won the Innovate UK competition, according to Paul Copping, because it aimed for “full-scale implementation” of a number of smart city solutions - and on a thirty to forty year timescale.

John McCarthy pointed to the potential for “massive transformation” with the qualitative changes that are likely to occur with autonomous vehicles, including better integration with other services, such as health, as well as lower stress travel, e.g. “Spotify on wheels”.


Brian Matthews, Head of Transport, Milton Keynes Council

Brian Matthews pointed out that such vehicles would be a “god-send for the very young and the very old, highlighting their benefits to people who find independent travel taxing or complicated".


Richard Cuerden, Technical Director for Vehicle Transport, TRL

Richard Cuerden (of TRL) featured past and present risks of road transport. At the start of the century, there were 55,000 people killed each year in traffic collisions in the EU28 and US; a number that has fallen to 26,000 in 2015, and "we’re on track for the EU target of 15,000 by 2020".

He outlined TRL’s priorities for research and potential legislation, and how to determine which safety measures provided most signicant benefits - apperently not always obvious without examining accident statistics and debris on the roadside.

He asserted that the road fleet, in terms of technology, is changing “faster than ever before and road users themselves are also changing”.

In terms of automation he suggested that the frequently quoted figure of over 90% of car accidents being due to human error should be used in a more nuanced way - as, in reality, there’s often a combination contributory causes. This then leaves human factors as a cause of 95% of accidents but a unique cause in a more realistic proportion of 74% (in a 2010 TRL study).

The future of vehicle safety – what are the priorities for regulation? Presented by Richard Cuerden

Nick Clay, Safety Testing Senior Manager, Thatcham Research, Active Safety With Advanced Driving Assistance Systems

Nick Clay of Thatcham Research - featured in a Sky News feature of the conference embedded above - detailed the track based testing conducted for the insurance industry. This included AEB (Automated Emergency Braking) systems. On the Volvo XC90 - this offers a 21% reductions in collisions in tests - and for the VW Golf - with its wider bigger operating range of operating speeds - the systems reduce the likelihood of collisions by around 45%.


Allan McAuslin, ADAS Product Line Manager, Freescale

Freescale products - when integrated into vehicles - are required to be able to deal with the consequent vibration and temperature fluctuations that make autonomous systems required to be of higher quality, reliability and resilience than  consumer standard componentry. Freescale, for instance, offers processors with claimed failure rates of less than one per million in comparison to the cheaper consumer-grade processors, such as in smartphones, that suffer failure rates of around 50 to 100 per million.


Chris Webber, VP Automotive Practice, Strategy Analytics, Consumer Adoption - The Move Towards Driverless Cars

Strategy Analytics’ Chris Webber asked the question everyone keeps asking those working in this business: “When will driverless cars be mainstream?” - admitting that nobody knows. But he could answer the questions: “Will a car that I can tell where to go and then snooze to my destination have a significant market share by 2020?” NO! - and “Will the next car that I purchase offer a significantly greater degree of autonomy than my current one?” YES!

ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) is one of the highest growth areas in the sector that, he sees, with have a price tag falling in inverse proprtion, and matching, consumer interest.

He quoted Google as seeing consumer trust as the major barrier to acceptance of self driving cars, but raised the question of waiting for acceptance or pushing acceptance. He sees the latter as preferable but reminded car makers to be careful what they wish for, as “With the truly autonomous vehicle everything changes!”.

The Move Towards Driverless Cars, Chris Webber,

Giles Perkins, Business Development Director for Intelligent Transport, Mouchel, Urban Planning Considerations For New Mobility - Autonomous Technologies: Their Impact On Network Operations And The Customer Experience

Giles Perkins (Mouchel) said that disruption is happening now, not just in vehicles but in infrastructure. “Neither on its own is going to fix congestion but, instead, it will the  interaction between the two. For the first time there’s starting to be a relationship between OEMs and road management”.

In terms of working towards a solution to road transport users' needs he reminded the attendees, “Don’t forget about the network”.

Driver assisted, connected & autonomous technologies, and their impact on network operations and the customer experience, Giles Perkins, Business Development Director, Mouchel Ltd.

Lola Fernández-Redondo, Smart & Sustainable City Adviser & Co-ordinator, Digital Greenwich, Urban Planning Considerations for New Mobility

Lola Fernández-Redondo described the history of the development of cities, from providing access by proximity to becoming 'automobile cities' that offered access through movement; the problem arising being sprawl requiring 40 times more space. This process, she claimed,if continues at current rates is becoming “highly unsustainable”.

As an attention grabbing statitictic, she claimed if the current rates of growth in cities continues world-wide to 2050 there will be a global urban additional car parking space requirement equivalent to the size of Denmark.

Instead, Lola suggested an “intelligent approach to urban accessibility”, with cities architected with a hierarchical structure, with radial and concentric transport links to provide travel time savings.

She sees driverless cars, as “Complementing trains - working more locally”.


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