The latest announcement by the UK Government in the King’s Speech on the publication of the Automated Vehicles Bill (AVB) starts to provide clarity on new legal frameworks which will govern the regulation of CAVs in the future.
Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are at the frontier of transportation technology, promising safe, sustainable, and frictionless mobility. With the latest announcements from UK government, we are on the cusp of scalable deployments, but as we accelerate to this new CAV-enabled future, there remains a crucial barrier that must be overcome; vehicles must earn and uphold the trust of those within and among them.
Our interaction with autonomous technology has a long history fraught with challenges. Over-trusting an autonomous system that is falling short of expectations, or underestimating its capabilities, can lead to adverse human-system interactions which can hinder adoption. These outcomes hold greater consequences when lives are at risk, as with CAVs.
“Trust” is universally recognised, but difficult to define. In part, because it is a perceived quality, unique to an individual’s experience. It emerges as someone uses technology to perform a task within an environment. In other words, trust in not easily attributable to parts of a system, but to how system-of-systems operate.
In the case of CAVs, it must be viewed both at the whole vehicle level and in the broader context of where and how the CAV is deployed. Without trust, CAVs won’t progress beyond trials; and the imperative to create trust applies both to companies providing the technology, and to the regulators who make the market possible.
Elements of design affecting trust
To establish “Trust by Design” at a vehicle level, trust needs to be woven into the whole design and development process including customer requirements, and integration into the testing regime. This ensures that the behaviour exhibited by CAVs is what a user expects and desires.
By announcing that the Department for Transport will be given new powers to authorise self-driving vehicles, and by holding companies more accountable for CAVs’ actions on the road, it places a greater risk liability on the manufacturer that will drive up safety and testing standards, and with it, trust by users and the public.
A total of 88% of accidents currently involve human error, therefore, the potential for CAVs to reduce costs, injuries, and fatalities is enormous. However, despite this, the scrutiny on their safety is intense. It follows that trust in CAVs will be built slowly over time, but if the CAV does not meet performance expectations or does not appear to the user to be functional, a large proportion of the time, the trust gained in drips will be lost in buckets, highlighting the importance of incorporating Trust by Design early in the design process.
Therefore, the plans laid out by the AVB to investigate and learn from incidents, much like aviation incidents, will feed back lessons to the safety framework for the whole industry and provide constant improvements in performance and risk mitigation.
The system functionality and performance are other key areas which need to match user expectations for trust to be instilled. If users don’t understand the limitations of self-driving features or how to operate them, then a huge barrier to trusting the system is created.
The AVB announced a clamp down on misleading marketing, which allows only vehicles meeting the safety threshold to be marketed as self-driving. This means drivers will have a clearer understanding of their vehicles’ capabilities, but there may still be more to do for users to fully understand what can be achieved by their vehicle.
Training drivers to become proficient users can help mitigate this, but it is becoming more difficult to educate as increasingly complicated automated driving systems are introduced into the market. As has been proven many times, it is always better to design an intuitive system rather than mitigate a complicated one.
The influence of polices and standards on trust
Changes within the CAV ecosystem will be driven by the market and regulated by governments, and now public bodies are beginning to incorporate a “Trust by Design” approach into their policy frameworks, providing clear long-term principles supported by new and updated legislation.
This approach should boost CAV adoption and trust in an emerging mobility ecosystem heavily reliant on immature and partially unproven technologies.
The clarified definition of ‘self-driving’ within the regulations will remove the uncertainty surrounding accident liability involving a partially automated or fully automated CAVs, which will go a long way to fostering trust and public acceptance.
However, this raises an important question about the ownership and availability of data as there will be a greater need for insurers and law enforcement to have access to the user’s vehicle data. There needs to be an honest and transparent process to how data is accessed and managed so users can feel confident about how their data is used.
To help users make the shift to trusting automated vehicles, the testing and certification will play a significant part, with self-driving features requiring “Trust by Design” to incorporate the many complex driving scenarios and corner cases they will encounter.
Although it is not clear what the new testing and certification process will entail, it must cover the cybersecurity attributes of the CAV alongside the self-driving performance. Clarification within the regulations on “how safe, is safe enough” to generate trust, will be critical to define by the governments and this threshold will need to be driven by data insights.
For CAVs to reach their full potential, a comprehensive Trust by Design approach must be integrated into every facet of their development. Attempting to circumnavigate or shortcut key phases of technology maturation will only hinder widespread adoption and could lead to avoidable accidents.
We envision a future where humans and CAVs only have positive interactions, but this will need to be grounded in trust and in a commitment to refining these technologies to the highest safety standards.
By doing so, we can unlock the perceived value of CAVs, revolutionising mobility while ensuring the well-being and safety of all stakeholders in this transformative journey.
About the authors
Hugo Cohn is an automotive systems engineer and mobility strategist at PA Consulting. Hugo supports clients in the AV and EV market to develop new approaches on how to thrive in a changing ecosystem and understand new concepts and technologies.
Michael Hurwitz is co-lead for clean and smart mobility at PA Consulting. He is an internationally recognised clean and smart mobility expert. He set up and led UK government’s programmes on electrification, autonomous vehicles and future fuels. While innovation lead at TFL, he led the greening of the bus fleet, micromobility and applied new tech to London’s transport system.