Coventry, a forward-looking, modern university and a provider of high-quality education with a focus on applied research has offices in China, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The university is the world-leading research and academic partner on every continent and its students gain life-changing experiences all over the world. Kevin Vincent, Director of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Automotive Research at Coventry University shares his thought with Nitisha Dubey on autonomous vehicles and their adoption. He also highlighted the pros and cons of the industry and how industry leaders can cope with such situations.
Kindly highlight the growth of autonomous vehicles and the alike UK, Europe, and Japan what other countries can learn for greater adoption of autonomous vehicles?
Highly automated vehicles will begin to penetrate the luxury market (offering certified SAE L3 features in Europe; i.e the driver is not required to be in control of the automated driving task while engaged) from this year. I would expect L3 features to grow and trickle down to mainstream products over the next 5 years. Similarly, I expect the market in the far east and North America to follow a similar trajectory. Advanced Lane Keeping systems (ALKS) is the first Advanced Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) is the first to be certified and we may see other features such as lane changing certified soon after. A significant factor in the facilitation of these features in a safe manner is understanding the operational design domain (infrastructure/scenery; environment/weather; dynamic actors/third party road users) where they are legal to operate. Implementing the appropriate infrastructure (e.g. communication technologies) will be required to enable safe adoption of automated vehicles. Given the difficulties in enabling automation in rural and sparsely populated areas, a focus on providing urban services for public transport (from taxis up to mass transit) is advisable. Experience in the UK suggests early adoption opportunities with highly automated vehicles can gain traction quickly in non-highway based environments such as ports and logistics facilities. These can provide markets for local supply chain companies to set up, creating local jobs.
When are we likely to see autonomous vehicles distributed and purchased significantly in the mainstream market?
The technological challenges/opportunities of CAV/CAM and the roadmap to autonomy are maturing. However, the requirements to generate market pull and the skills required for the successful implementation and uptake of services are less well understood. For example, the safe ongoing operation of vehicles needs new MOT tests addressing security, software, and data privacy; new and disruptive ownership models present issues and opportunities regarding individual design and brand identity; trust and perception require more human-centered design for viable solutions. These and more questions need answering if economic, environmental and productivity projections are to be realized. We are therefore likely to see a staged entry of automated vehicles into the market with SAE Level 3 vehicles entering into the European market now, offering limited feature-based automation such as Advanced Lane Keeping Assistance (ALKS) and following this in all likelihood, lane changing features. However, despite the hype, full self-driving (SAE level 4) is not likely to hit the mainstream market until closer to the end of this decade.
What are the best ways to take precautions and stay safe when operating an autonomous vehicle?
It’s important not to go to sleep! While L3 automation, now certified with Advanced Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) about to hit the market in Europe, will allow drivers (considered operators when the automated driving system, ADS, is engaged) to undertake non-driving related tasks, it is important to realize the vehicle may still perform an emergency maneuver. Therefore, simple considerations such as not having loose devices (tablets, phones, etc.) in the cabin will help prevent objects flying around the cabin. This is particularly important if the operator has to retake control due to the potential for distraction.
Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) and other regulations that can complement the future of Autonomous Vehicles?
SAE Level 3 (L3) features such as ALKS have been widely debated. Initial wisdom in some sections of the industry suggested that technology should jump from SAE Level 2 to 4 to avoid risks associated with command and control. For example, if the operator is not ready to accept the change in cognitive workload if a transition of control is requested yet responds to the request and takes control regardless. This could lead to poor decision-making in emergency situations and more work is required to refine the transition control process and associated human-machine interface. However, UNECE regulations for L3 features have now been approved and it is undeniable that introducing such features will help accelerate the development of automated vehicles and lead to reduced accident rates. They will also enable quicker uptake of technology and improve our learning of what it will take to introduce higher levels of automation safely.
What constitutes a truly autonomous vehicle?
The ability to navigate from current location to intended destination regardless of weather, infrastructure and third-party road users without any input from the operator. Described by the SAE level 5 definition of automation, this is extremely difficult and may in fact prove to be practically impossible to achieve considering the variability of road and infrastructure standards.
What are the key differences between driverless and driver-assisted cars?
It is important in terms of liability to distinguish between ‘driver’ and ‘operator’. The key difference is that for ‘driverless’ (i.e. L3+) cars, the operator, while the automated driving system (ADS) is engaged, does not need to monitor the task and can engage in non-driving related activity. The recommendation in the UK from the Law Commission is that while the ADS is engaged, the manufacturer is liable for any incidents caused by a fault or decision by the ADS. Driver assistance requires the ‘driver’ to be in control (and therefore liable) while automated assistance systems (at L2) such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping are engaged.
One of the most obvious aims of the move to automated vehicles is to increase safety by significantly reducing the major cause of injury accidents – human error. Estimates vary, but approximately 95% of accidents are caused by human error. There are approximately 1800 road traffic deaths in the UK per annum (despite the UK having the second safest roads in Europe and consistently amongst the world’s safest roads) with a prevention cost of about £2M per death. Perhaps less well understood is that there are overall some 120,000 reportable accidents per annum at a prevention cost of £26,000 per accident. Successful automation is ultimately expected to significantly reduce accidents allowing all road users to benefit. As automation gains uptake in the market place, benefits to reducing congestion and pollution will accrue due to smoothing out traffic flow. Optimisation of the vehicles’ motion will reduce particulate pollution from, for example, tyre and brake pad wear. At the human level, reducing the strain on the driver will lower stress and could have positive health benefits, especially for professional drivers.
The technological challenges/opportunities of CAV/CAM and the roadmap to autonomy are maturing. However, the requirements to generate market pull and the skills required for the successful implementation and uptake of services are less well understood. For example, safe ongoing operation of vehicles needs new MOT tests addressing security, software and cyber security; new and disruptive ownership models present issues and opportunities regarding individual design and brand identity; trust and perception require more human-centred design for viable solutions. These and more questions need answering if safety, environmental, economic, and productivity projections are to be realized.
According to you, what kind of challenges industry is facing and how can be resolved?
New and disruptive ownership models present both issues and opportunities to traditional vehicle manufacturers and new entrants alike, regarding individual design and brand identity. While the technology push is making strides into providing solutions, there are still a lot of questions to be answered around the market pull in terms of who wants (or trusts and accepts) new mobility services, and whether the industry risks excluding sections of society, such as the rural or the vulnerable. Consequently, there is also a requirement to improve education in topics such as legal and insurance issues, infrastructure planning and user-centered design to ensure accessibility, trust and acceptance, enabling the undoubted socio-economic benefits of connected and automated mobility to be realized.