Transport Minister and Business Secretary launch VENTURER driverless car trial

Issue date: 11 February 2015

VENTURER Wildcat Car in Bristol

Transport Minister, Claire Perry and Business Secretary, Vince Cable will launch the VENTURER consortium's driverless car trial today, giving the project the green light to test autonomous vehicles in the real world.

The VENTURER consortium will trial autonomous vehicles in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire council areas to explore the feasibility of driverless cars in the UK. The project will investigate the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and explore how the public react to such vehicles.

Lee Woodcock, VENTURER project lead and technology director for Atkins' Highways & Transportation business said: “This is an exciting time for the UK transport industry, driverless vehicles will bring about many benefits including reduced congestion, safer roads and access to mobility. This is new territory so over the next three years, the VENTURER consortium will look at what driverless vehicles could mean from a legal and insurance perspective as well as how these vehicles could impact on people's behaviour and how the public might accept this new technology.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said, “Driverless cars are the future. I want the UK to be open-minded and embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.

“I want the public to be comfortable that proper safeguards are in place and the Bristol trials will go a long way in helping us better understand the full implications of this exciting development.”

The VENTURER trial will run for 36 months. Testing of the consortium's autonomous vehicle, the BAE Systems Wildcat on private and public roads is due to begin in early 2016.

A key objective of the project will be to understand the public's acceptance of driverless vehicles, this includes pedestrians, cyclists, other motorists as well as owners of other driverless cars. Professor Graham Parkhurst of The Centre for Transport and Society at UWE Bristol, “I am excited by the prospect of leading one of the first major investigations into how driverless vehicles might fit into and shape future society. There are many implications for how we travel, particularly for those unable to drive themselves, how we plan our cities, organise our streets and manage traffic.”

Professor Tony Pipe of Bristol Robotics Laboratory said, "The mission of the Venturer project is to make significant strides forward in understanding and enhancing user-acceptability, insurability and related legal aspects for autonomous vehicles that can operate in busy urban roads. To do this, we must also achieve significant advances in the technology itself, in terms of sensing, autonomous control and wireless communications. In other words, driverless vehicles must be capable of operating safely and effectively as individual entities but also, critically, as part of a larger distributed system of vehicles and static information sources. The wealth of knowledge derived from years of research into safe and efficient robotics and autonomous systems at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, in both simulation and the real world, places us in a unique position to successfully support this project's aims."

The VENTURER consortium is made up of a range of organisations from across different sectors:

· Atkins: lead partner, providing project co-ordination, delivery and intelligent mobility expertise

· AXA UK: insurance and legal expertise

· Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council: access to public roads and local road network intelligence

· First Bus: as part of the work being done around driver assistance technologies, First will provide a bus as a means of collecting data

· Fusion Processing: advanced sensor systems

· Williams Advanced Engineering: driving simulator expertise

· Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England: research on public expectations, acceptance and response

· University of Bristol: car to infrastructure communications

· Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England & University of Bristol: hosting the trial

centre and providing systems integration and decision-making algorithms

The VENTURER trial is one of three projects being funded by Innovate UK to investigate how driverless vehicles could fit in with every-day life. The GATEway project will explore new forms of automated technology in Greenwich while the UK Autodrive project is being run in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

Back to top