Driverless car trials could take place in Bristol next summer – possibly on a university campus – as an Atkins-led team works to make the technology practical.
The Venturer consortium, which also includes universities, local authorities and Formula One specialists, is planning to run the first of three sets of experiments next year.
It will test people’s perceptions of autonomous vehicles as well as the technology that makes them work as it builds towards a controlled test on an urban road in mid-2018.
Ventura technical director John McCarthy – who is also part of Atkins’ intelligent mobility team – said work was taking place to identify a testing facility.
This will feature a mixture of physical and virtual environments to put driverless technology through its paces.
“The facility will be in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area, and we are working on sites,” said MCarthy. “We are working with our partners the University of West England, the University of Bristol, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council, as well as AXA UK, First Bus, Fusion Processing and Williams Advanced Engineering.
“It could be on a university campus. We need to define the requirements of the site then find the right area that will meet them.”
The summer 2016 trials will be followed by tests in early 2017 and finally in summer or autumn 2018.
“We will undertake trials of increasing complexity as we build up to a point where we can deploy a vehicle in a test environment on an urban road,” said McCarthy.
Technology being studied for the project includes sensors, light detection and ranging (Lidar), communication systems and a Williams F1 simulator.
“At this stage the potential of the technology is impressive,” the Atkins man said. “Over the next three years we will understand more about the practicalities.
Work is also being undertaken to understand what concerns the public has about driverless vehicles, and how these can be overcome, as well as on insurance details.
We’ve been to festivals in Bristol and the feedback varies,” said McCarthy. “We get good and bad responses but no-one is indifferent.”
Atkins is also working on cyber security measures to ensure technology used to drive the cars can’t be hacked into.
“We are looking to identify weak points and understand what we need to do about these,” said McCarthy.