UK underpins status as CAV world leader

A new £1.5m research centre will investigate the safety issues faced by pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and children as the growing number of driverless cars bring fresh challenges to the roads.

The international initiative led by Loughborough University, in partnership with Queensland University of Technology, Australia, and Tongji University, in China, has been part-funded by Research England as part of a project to boost international collaborations.

The new centre aims to save lives and prevent injuries to young and elderly pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and sensory-impaired road users by providing the motor industry with new research about how autonomous vehicles and vulnerable road users interact.

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) account for 59% of those either killed or seriously injured in collisions involving cars and other vehicles.

Centre director Professor Andrew Morris said, ‘We are delighted and honoured to be working with such prestigious research institutions as CARRS-Q, at the Queensland University of Technology, and the International Research Laboratory of Transportation Safety, at Tongji University. I think this collaboration will make us a very powerful force with respect to ensuring that the introduction of CAVs is not detrimental to safety.

‘To be successful, future CAVs must be fully and safely integrated into the future mobility environment. Therefore, I3 investment will be used to bring the collective knowledge, skills, resources and facilities of the three universities to develop an international centre capable of tackling key emerging issues related to the rapid transition towards CAVs within the transport system.

‘The UK already has a reputation as a world-leader in CAV technology – a sector that is predicted to be worth £63bn by 2035, and the UK government has pledged that the UK should retain such leadership in the years ahead. However, associated with the introduction of CAVs on the roads are a range of technical and ethical challenges.

‘There are concerns about how a vehicle with a driver inside, who is only partially engaged with the driving task, will be able to respond to traffic situations where more vulnerable road-users are present. At the moment, in many situations there is an implicit communication code between driver and pedestrian – for example, crossing the road. This will disappear with vehicle autonomy. It’s important to ensure that these safety implications do not go unrecognised.’

The centre will gather accident data from around the world and will seek data from experimental trials as well as through questionnaires and focus groups. All of the data gathered will be made available to the motor industry and will be presented at a series of seminars and an international conference scheduled for 2023.