Bristol driverless car report challenges business models

VENTURER project comes to an end
11th September 2018

The £5m VENTURER project has released its final report, detailing key research results that challenge developments by major global companies.

The three-year project explored the barriers to the adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in the UK and how best they could be overcome.

“One of the first research and development projects to explore the future of connected and autonomous vehicles on the UK road network, VENTURER’s findings challenge the status quo, shining a spotlight on what users want from driverless cars, how they can be safely implemented and what government and insurers need to do to make sure the UK is CAV-ready,” said Carolyn Mitchell, Project Manager of VENTURER and Transport Planning Practice Manager at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group

Over 200 people took part in the VENTURER trials, which established a safe testing methodology using both simulated and controlled road network environments. This demonstrated that simulation could be used to assess user responses to driverless technology in a wide variety of settings.

Considering the handover task and typical road speeds, the project found that urban roads might lend themselves to early adoption of driverless cars, although this needs to be evaluated in the context of the greater complexity of urban highway environments, including the presence of pedestrians and cyclists

However, more research is needed to better understand the impact that the introduction of driverless cars could have on traffic flow and the operation of the wider transport network – including an examination of planned handover at higher levels (Level 4+) of autonomy.

The trials also revealed a preference for driverless car algorithms to be more cautious on the road, which could have significant implications for the future of the UK transport network. If they drive more cautiously than the average human driver, they may create a traffic-calming effect on the network, resulting in safety benefits where there are both autonomous and manually driven vehicles.

One interesting result was that users were most willing to use and pay for an individual driverless vehicle and the least willing to use and pay for a shared driverless vehicle such as a ride-sharing service like Uber. This finding is contrary to the plans of companies in the US such as Google’s Waymo that are already operating ride-sharing schemes using driverless cars.

The VENTURER findings informed the development of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, a key piece of legislation required for the wider adoption of driverless cars in the UK.

The final report and details of the follow-on VENTURER Alliance are at http://www.venturer-cars.com/