Academics from UWE Bristol in £4.2m connected and autonomous vehicles pilot scheme

Issue date: 11 April 2017


Researchers from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) will contribute to a £4.2m pilot scheme that could pave the way for connected and autonomous vehicles to be introduced in airports, hospitals, tourist destinations and shopping centres.

The project includes the design, development and testing of new autonomous and connected pods on-demand (PODs), beginning with a study at Filton Airfield and culminating in on-road public trials at London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

It will include the development of the next generation of PODs, as well as the systems and technologies that will allow the vehicles to navigate safely and seamlessly in both pedestrian and road environments.

In all, 20 organisations are involved in the project led by engineering company AECOM. Funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), the CAPRI consortium brings together academic institutions, businesses, SMEs and public sector authorities with a range of skills, knowledge and needs in the connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) arena.

Representing UWE Bristol on the project are Professor Graham Parkhurst, Director of the Centre for Transport & Society, and Professor Tony Pipe, Deputy Director of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Professor Parkhurst will lead a team examining the 'end-to-end' user experience of booking, paying for, gaining access to and travelling in an autonomous POD vehicle which is part of a small network. Citizens' views about the future role of PODs will also help develop relevant applications, building on work undertaken in two other autonomous vehicle projects. Professor Pipe will be involved in the verification and validation of the correctness of the decision making system, the highest level of the vehicle's control system that makes decisions about how the vehicle should behave.

Professor Parkhurst said: "UWE Bristol is delighted to be involved in a third major connected autonomous vehicle project. These research initiatives enable us to apply the sector-leading skills and expertise of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory whilst also developing our understanding of the role that CAVs can play in our society and as part of our transport systems. At the same time, the involvement of West of England-based partners in the CAPRI project underlines the importance of the region in the development of these new technologies."

Professor Pipe said: "The POD's decision making system is the highest level of the vehicle's control system, which is roughly equivalent to the outcomes of conscious processes that take place in the mind of a human driver. Clearly this is highly safety-critical and a huge technological advance that is being made in the individual transportation industries, so guarantees of safety and robustness are critical."

Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, said: “The race for developing connected and autonomous vehicles is accelerating and as a Government we are determined to build on our strengths and ensure the UK is at the forefront of this revolution.

“We have an excellent record in innovation in the UK and through our Industrial Strategy, we will build on our strengths so the UK auto sector remains world-leading. That is why we have announced support today for CAPRI as schemes like these will be key to turning research and development into anchoring future production.”

Lee Street, Director & Head of Technology Services – Europe, AECOM, said: “Connected and autonomous mobility services could potentially be used across a wide range of markets from airports and hospitals to business parks, shopping and tourist centres so there are clear economic and service benefits to this pilot. Our CAPRI consortium brings together academic and business partners, and will help strengthen the UK's position as a world-leader in the development of CAVs.”

The project includes four trials, with the first on private land at Filton Airfield where consortium member YTL is developing a major new community. The aim of this trial will be to test and validate the performance of the new generation PODs. The second trial will test a public service in a shopping centre car park to assess performance in busy pedestrian areas. The final two trials will be at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a large and diverse estate that includes retail, recreation, residential and business centres. The first of these trials will test a public on-demand mobility service in pedestrian areas, with the PODs identifying and navigating the best routes. The final public trial will test the PODs on a network of roads around the park, with the service interacting with traffic control systems.

An important aspect of the scheme will be safety and security. For the first time, the project will apply accidentology analysis to PODs to identify potential causes of accidents that will require testing and evaluation in the real world, while using state-of-the-art techniques to simulate other scenarios, therefore reducing the need for real world testing. The consortium will also undertake a system-wide cyber-physical security analysis to identify how to protect the POD systems from being compromised.

The CAPRI consortium was awarded the funding as part of a CCAV and Innovate UK competition to invest £35 million in industry-led research and development projects on CAVs. The aim of the competition was to find projects that would deliver technical solutions for CAVs that provide real-world benefits to users and where the commercial benefit is clear.

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