Almost all (96%) passengers that took part in an autonomous vehicle as part of a London trial said they trusted the technology guiding the way.
The StreetWise commuter research trial in the capital led by UK self-driving technology company, Five, alongside partners TRL and Direct Line Group, showed that invited participants rated their overall journey experience as positive to very positive, with 86% going further to say their expectations had been exceeded.
Factors that drove these results included the self-driving system’s ability to keep a safe distance, perceive and manoeuvre safely around obstacles and hazards, drive like a human, and manage roundabouts – common in Europe but almost entirely absent in the US.
Participants’ trust in the diligence and professionalism of the safety driver in each vehicle also played a part.
The StreetWise project involved inviting members of the public to experience being driven autonomously on a busy, fixed 13 mile route in London.
The route included shared tramways, a variety of roundabouts, cyclists, pedestrians, T-junctions, signalised pedestrian crossings and a wide variety of vulnerable road users.
In order to launch the trial, a complete review of the vehicle platform and automated driving system (ADS), safety driver and test engineer selection, training and compliance had to meet the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Code of Practice for automated vehicles testing, UK vehicle standards, UK driving rules and road traffic laws.
Five developed all the self-driving software, tested it on proving grounds and in simulation to help demonstrate compliance before launching the live tests.
Stan Boland, co-founder and chief executive of Five, said: “Strong consumer trust and enthusiasm to adopt this technology is welcome news for the self-driving industry.
“It’s also testament to the need for a relentless focus on safety in how self-driving systems are developed and tested.”
Boland said Five is now rolling out its platform to industry partners to help them build their self-driving systems, shorten their time to market, and enable the delivery of evidence-based safety arguments.
The StreetWise project also highlighted hurdles in establishing the regulatory landscape, delivering clarity on what testing should be done, transparency on the test data itself and rigour on using that evidence to prove a set of arguments that add up to the assertion that the system is safe.
Safety is paramount
David Hynd, chief scientist for TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, said: “The safety of not only the vehicles involved, but also of the passengers and other road users is of paramount importance.
“This is why the safety case for the StreetWise trials was the most advanced version used in any trial to date.
“Moving forwards, it is essential that the wider industry comes together to build on what we have achieved so far, so that we not only learn from our combined findings, but also so we can build the framework whereby we harmonise the standards for a future that includes automated vehicles.”