We’ve all seen on TV and in films what appears to be seemingly endless stretches of empty and desolate American highways. Compare that relative motoring calm to the hustle and bustle of UK roads.
Here motorists appear to be locked in a constant struggle for space. How will Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) cope? How will they deal with our traffic light systems and busy roundabouts, T-junctions, Y-junctions and four-way intersections? Not to mention the other motorists driving regular manual vehicles and the various random things such as animals, people and debris off the back of lorries that enter our roads and pose a challenge?
This brief snapshot hopefully gives you a sense of some of the challenges we have in the UK for testing Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) in a safe and effective manner.With a highway environment conducive to testing driverless vehicles, a point reinforced by the 1 road fatality for every 100 million miles driven stat, America has understandably made significant progress. The UK does not have that luxury of space to test in. Ours is a much more cramped and less forgiving environment, one where you also feel that any negative issues relating to the live testing of a driverless vehicle would be subjected to detailed media and public scrutiny.
So, to discover how driverless vehicles might be deployed here in the UK, OS’s E-CAVE team is creating digital simulations to model and collaborate with. By sharing the simulation with the CAV community, it allows the E-CAVE team and members of that community to play out countless scenarios. This will help bridge the gap of early stages of CAV technology readiness.The advantage of using a digital simulation is that it offers a safe setting for much of the trial and error to be completed at a desk. We expect this method to accelerate the testing of CAVs in the UK. The E-CAVE team is particularly interested in situation modelling junctions, where in 2016 68% of UK traffic incidents occurred.
One of the first things the team has done is to hide a mattress in the road around a bend. They are doing this to observe how CAVs would respond to it (how quickly can they work out what it is) and communicate its presence to each other.
Using cloud-based technologies, the plan is to publish data in a hub to make it easy to discover and access data, evidence knowledge and provide a valuable launchpad for third-party innovators (academics and commercial organisations) to add value.
The overall aim is for a continuously enriched set of improved data and applications to the point where the majority of mistakes have been made in the simulation and we are in a position to confidently take CAVs onto the busy UK roads.
Interested in CAVs? Find out more about our work in 5G.