VENTURER consortium to test driverless cars in Bristol region

Issue date: 03 December 2014

The VENTURER consortium has secured funding from Innovate UK to test driverless cars in the Bristol region. This appointment follows today's Autumn statement announcement to make the UK a world centre for the testing and development of this new technology.

VENTURER is made up of organisations in the South West which includes Atkins, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, AXA, Williams Advanced Engineering, Fusion Processing, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

Lee Woodcock, VENTURER project lead and technology director for Atkins' Highways & Transportation business said: “We are thrilled to be appointed by Innovate UK to lead the UK development of an independent test site for, and a market leading capability in, autonomous vehicles. The VENTURER consortium have joined forces to explore the feasibility of driverless cars in the UK, by trialling autonomous vehicles in the Bristol region, investigating the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and exploring how the public react to such vehicles.

“This programme will help keep the UK at the forefront of this transformational technology, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson said: “Bristol has a deserved reputation as an innovative city and test-bed for new technologies, as we have just been recognised with the International Award for Urban Innovation by our sister city Guangzhou. As such we are delighted to be part of the VENTURER project that brings together high-quality knowledge and development with an enthusiasm for creating digital solutions.

“The novelty of Bristol's approach is our focus on public-private-citizen partnerships, championing experimental solutions through the deployment of information and communications technology (ICT) and digital technologies in a people friendly manner.

“Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council have a long-standing commitment to sustainability and we place green issues at the heart of our vision for the city. To help achieve this, significant investment is being made in renewable energy schemes. Bristol is also working to cut its CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. As we embark on our year as European Green Capital 2015, we hope to seize even more opportunities to bring new investment, businesses and visitors to the region.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said: “The UK is a world-leader in the development of driverless technology, and today's announcement will see driverless cars take to city streets from 1 January. This not only puts us at the forefront of this transformational technology but it also opens up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

“Through the government's industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs.”

Professor Graham Parkhurst, Director, Centre for Transport and Society at UWE said: “The possibility of driverless cars running in city centres presents some important challenges for how we manage the interactions of people and vehicles. Pedestrians will still want the freedom to cross the road where it suits them, but driverless cars will need to be able to make progress safely if they are to be effective. Driverless cars also have a large potential to change both our travel patterns, and what we do while we travel. Will travellers be able to read a book in urban traffic, or will they feel too travelsick? More people could travel by car if they don't need a licence themselves or someone to drive them. This could open up opportunities to people but might also mean more car traffic. On the other hand, cars driven automatically are expected to be more energy efficient than when driven by the typical human, and people might be more willing to share if nobody is taking the responsibility for the driving. So a key challenge is to understand how far driverless cars will be a good or bad development in environmental terms.”

Professor Anthony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at UWE said: "At BRL, we are fundamentally committed to advancing the state of the art in one of the UK government's 'eight great technologies', i.e., Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Autonomous Vehicles, such as 'driverless cars', clearly represent a crucial part of this technology, which could have far-reaching societal and economic benefits. One of the legacies of our programme will be to create a uniquely valuable vehicle testing facility by utilising the specialised knowledge of our consortium, including integrated city-wide advanced communications systems, real and simulated vehicle platforms, robot technology and controlled access to public roads. Those wishing to use this facility will be able to thoroughly test their new technology or related socio-economic benefits."

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