Talking self-driving safety and regulation with Philip Koopman, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University

Koopman on self-driving safety in 2024: UK is adult in the room, US is Wild West

With the Automated Vehicles Bill passing Parliament, and attention turning to secondary legislation, we go deep on regulation with one of the world’s preeminent self-driving safety experts – Philip Koopman, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania.

In his 2022 book “How Safe Is Safe Enough? Measuring and Predicting Autonomous Vehicle Safety”, aimed at engineers, policy stakeholders and technology enthusiasts, Koopman deconstructs the oft-quoted metric of being “at least as safe as a human driver”, and urges greater focus on what is “acceptably safe for real-world deployment”.

Self-driving safety expert, Philip Koopman
Self-driving safety expert, Philip Koopman

You’ve described the UK as “the adult in the room” when it comes to self-driving regulation – why? 

To be clear, the context was a general statement about safety, not necessarily specific to any particular regulation or standard. It’s a cultural statement, rather than a technical one.

Let’s talk about the US, the UK and Europe, because I can separate those out. In Europe, there’s type approval, whereas in the US there is no requirement to follow any standards at all. People point to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), but that’s about things like airbags and dashboard warning lights, not automated vehicle features.

In the UK, you have the ALARP principle, which applies to all health and safety law. It is not required anywhere else, other than perhaps Australia, which is also doing a good job on safety. Under ALARP, companies are required to have a safety case that demonstrates they have mitigated risks ‘As Low As Reasonably Practicable’.

That’s a reflection of UK culture valuing and emphasising safety – industrial safety systems as well as occupational safety. Other countries don’t do that to the same degree, so that was the basis for my ‘adult in the room’ statement.

You British actually have research funding for safety! There’s a bit of that in the EU, but in the US there’s essentially none. I’ve succeeded, and Professor Leveson at MIT, but it’s a very small handful. In the UK, you have the York Institute for Safe Autonomy, you have Newcastle University, and there’s government funding for safety which you just don’t see in the US.

What about self-driving vehicle manufacturers – how do they approach safety?

The car companies had functional safety people, and some of them ended up looking at autonomy, but it was often pretty crude. You need to differentiate between traditional motor vehicle safety and the computer-based safety required for self-driving.

Ultimately, it comes down to culture. The car safety people have historically had a human driver to blame when things go bad – and this is baked into the standards such as ISO 26262, the classic automotive safety standard for electronic systems.

In private, some US self-driving companies will say ‘yeah, we read it, but it’s not for us’. In public, they use words written by lawyers for other lawyers – the large print giveth and the fine print taketh away.

In other standards, risk is a combination of probability and severity – the riskier it is, the more engineering effort you need to put in to mitigate that risk.

In automotive, they say it’s controllability, severity and exposure. They take credit every time a driver cleans up a technical malfunction, until they don’t – then they blame driver error. Google the Audi 5000 Unintended Acceleration Debacle, a famous case from the 1980s. The point is car companies are used to blaming the humans for technical malfunctions.

In self-driving you also have the robot guys, who are used to making cool demos to get the next tranche of funding. Their idea of safety is a big red button. I’ve worked with them, they’re smart and they’re gonna learn on the job, but they historically had zero skills in mass production or safety at scale on public roads.

Both these cultures made sense in their previous operating environments. In traditional automotive, I have a problem with some driver blaming but, holistically, one fatality per 100 million miles is pretty impressive. With the robot guys, the Silicon Valley ‘move fast and break things’ model falls down if what you’re breaking is a person, particularly a road user who didn’t sign up for the risk.

Oh, and they’re also now using machine learning, which means the functional safety people will struggle to apply their existing toolsets. That’s the challenge. It’s complicated and there’s lots of moving parts.

Koopman's 2022 book on self-driving safety: How Safe Is Safe Enough?
Koopman’s 2022 book on self-driving safety: How Safe Is Safe Enough?

Which brings us to the need for regulation…

In the US, it’s like we’ve been purposely avoiding regulating software for decades. Look at the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) investigations into Tesla crashes – it always seems to be about the driver not paying attention, rather than Tesla made it easy for them not to pay attention.

Now we have the likes of Cruise, Waymo and Zoox – computers driving the car, no human backup, and basically self-certification. Jump through the bureaucratic hoops, get insurance, and you can just put this stuff on the road.

The US is the Wild West for vehicle automation. There are no rules. The NHTSA might issue a recall for something particularly egregious. If there’s a bad crash in California, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) might yank a permit.

Our social contract is supposedly supported by strong tort and product defect laws. But what good is that if it takes five years and a million dollars of legal fees to pursue a car company in the event of a fatal crash? In some states the computer is said to be responsible for driving errors, but is not a legal person, so there is literally nobody to sue.

That’s why I’m working with William H. Widen, Professor at the University of Miami School of Law – to find ways to reduce the expense and improve accessibility.

Expanding this to hands-free driving, you’re no fan of using the SAE levels for regulation?

Whether you like them or not, the SAE levels are the worst idea ever for regulation – they make for bad law. The mythical Level 5 is just an arbitrary point on a continuum! Also, testing – beta versus not beta – matters a lot and SAE J3016 is really weak on that.

That’s why I’ve proposed a different categorisation of driving modes: testing, autonomous, supervisory and conventional. L2 and L3 is supervisory, L4 and 5 is autonomous.

The car accepting the button press to engage self-driving transfers the duty of care to a fictional entity called the computer driver, for whom the manufacturer is responsible. That’s not incompatible with your Law Commission’s user in charge (UIC) and no user in charge (NUIC).

The next question is: how do you give the duty of care back to the human driver? I say by giving them at least a 10 second warning, more if appropriate. In a lot of cases, 30 or 40 seconds might be required, depending on the circumstance.

It’s not perfect, but it’s got simplicity on its side. The car companies can then do whatever the heck they want, held accountable under tort law.

For further info, including links to Philip Koopman’s books and Safe Autonomy blog, visit

Attention turns to secondary legislation as landmark self-driving Bill passes UK Parliament.

Self-driving insurance and skills issues as AV Bill awaits royal assent

Following consideration of Commons amendments in the Lords on 8 May 2024, the Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill has successfully passed through Parliament.

The landmark self-driving legislation now awaits only the rubber stamp of royal assent, with some speculating this could be given within days.

We’ve covered the passage of the Bill extensively on Cars of the Future, from its inclusion in the 2023 King’s Speech to the excellent Self-Driving Vehicles All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) media briefing at Wayve.

For the sake of posterity, let us record here that its long title is: “A Bill to regulate the use of automated vehicles on roads and in other public places; and to make other provision in relation to vehicle automation.”

It was sponsored by Lord Davies of Gower, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (DfT), and Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, both Conservatives, but secured cross-party support.

Progress of the AV Bill on the Parliament website
Progress of the AV Bill on the Parliament website

Self-driving scrutiny

Lord Davies of Gower said: “My Lords, I extend my gratitude to colleagues across the House for their supportive comments on and contributions to this Bill. Your Lordships’ careful and considered scrutiny has been hugely valuable.

“Over the coming months, we will launch a comprehensive programme of secondary legislation, building the new regulatory framework piece by piece.

“This will incorporate several statutory instruments, including guidance in the form of the statement of safety principles. Among the first elements to be consulted on will be regulations on misleading marketing, as these can apply before the authorisation system has been established.”

What might this mean for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) package, we wonder? Tellingly, prominent early reactions came from the automotive and insurance industries.

Industry reaction

Jonathan Fong, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “We’re delighted the Automated Vehicles Bill will soon receive royal assent – putting the UK on the road to being a world leader in AV technology.

“While this Bill represents a significant step forward, further consideration is needed to address concerns around safety and cybersecurity. It’s critical that insurers have access to relevant data in order to support the adoption of this technology.”

Tara Foley, CEO of AXA UK&I, agreed: “AXA UK is delighted that the Bill has now become law, paving the way for self-driving vehicles to improve road safety, boost the UK economy and enhance mobility for people with limited transport options, including the disabled and elderly.

“It’s now crucial that secondary legislation is quickly passed to address issues such as cybersecurity, data sharing and the safety principles for commercial deployment.”

Meanwhile, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) was quick to highlight the technical upskilling required to service fleets of self-driving vehicles.

IMI highlights self-driving training need
IMI highlights self-driving training need

Hayley Pells, Policy Lead at the IMI, said: “The Automated Vehicles Bill 2024 addresses the liability issues of automated vehicles for manufacturers and insurers, and provides a positive pathway for the introduction of this new form of mobility that could be empowering for so many.

“Clearly this is just the first step, and the IMI is keen to ensure that future legislation also takes into account the skills that will be crucial in the aftermarket for safe use of automated vehicles.  

“Failure to maintain and update these high-tech systems, many of which are designed to keep road users safe, really could be a matter of life and death.

“To ensure checks are carried out accurately, we desperately need more technicians to be trained to work on vehicles with this technology. We are therefore urging government and policymakers to ensure there’s the funding and infrastructure to support the essential upskilling.”

Responding to an update on the AV Bill by transport technology lawyer Alex Glassbrook, Ben Gardner of Shoosmiths suggested that royal assent could be given as soon as next week – then on to secondary legislation.

As Nelson Mandela noted in his Long Road To Freedom speech: After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

New York City to start trials of self-driving cars with safety drivers.

Safety drivers required for Big Apple self-driving trials

Flagship local news provider NBC New York has highlighted plans to trial self-driving cars with safety drivers in the most populous city in the United States – “autonomous but not driverless”, as reporter Andrew Siff puts it.

2024 NBC New York report on automated driving testing in NYC

Self-driving NYC

NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, emphasised that all companies applying for testing permits will have to go through a rigorous approval process.

They must also agree to share data relating to any occasions when the safety driver has intervened.

This approach is broadly in line with what we’re doing here in the UK – certainly more cautious than the free-wheeling approach of California.

The report notably contains footage of robotaxis operated by both Cruise and Waymo.

Cruise and Waymo self-driving cars
Cruise and Waymo self-driving cars

Thanks to Ian Dooley on Unsplash for the cool black and white NYC photo.

VW deepens strategic partnership with Mobileye to deliver self-driving ID Buzz

VW links with Mobileye promising large scale self-driving EV production by 2026

In what it claims is a first for a global vehicle manufacturer, Volkswagen Group has partnered with self-driving technology specialist, Mobileye, to develop a Level 4 electric van for “large-scale production”.

The agreement will see Mobileye supplying software, hardware and digital maps for the self-driving ID Buzz. In particular, a self-driving system based on the Mobileye Drive platform.

Further key components include two independent high-performance computers, 13 cameras, nine lidar and five radar units, plus constant online connection to clouds providing “swarm data from other road users about the traffic situation”.

VW partners with Mobileye to push self-driving
VW partners with Mobileye to push self-driving

As well as automated driving, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) is also the lead brand within VW for mobility-as-a-Service (MAAS). It has been working on the self-driving ID Buzz since 2021 and, via Volkswagen ADMT GmbH, plans to have it ready by 2026.

Pushing self-driving

“Bringing autonomous shuttles on the road in large quantities requires cooperation from strong partners,” said Christian Senger, member of the Board of Management at VWCV. “We are developing the first fully autonomous large-scale production vehicle, and Mobileye brings its digital driver on board.”

In the longer term, VW aims to develop on own in-house system, leveraging its partnerships with Bosch and Qualcomm, as well as Horizon Robotics in China.

“Our goal is to offer our customers throughout the world outstanding products with cutting-edge technology,” said Oliver Blume, CEO of VW and Porsche.

VW CEO, Oliver Blume, backs self-driving
VW CEO, Oliver Blume, backs self-driving

“New automated driving functions will significantly boost convenience and safety. These functions, which will be tailored to our brands and products, will make every trip a personal, individual experience. In Mobileye, we have an additional first-class partner to shape this automotive future together.”

Prof. Amnon Shashua, President and CEO of Mobileye, added: “We are proud to work closely with Volkswagen Group to make the future of driving safer, more automated and more rewarding.”

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has opened its call for evidence on self-driving.

NIC call for evidence on self-driving deadline: 3 June

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has opened its call for evidence on connected and self-driving technologies to “support sustainable economic growth across all regions of the UK, improve competitiveness and quality of life, and support climate resilience”.

As outlined by Chairman Sir John Armitt CBE at the Zenzic CAM Innovators’ Day in March, the NIC exists to provide government with impartial, expert advice on major long term infrastructure challenges.

Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

Recent NIC studies have looked at ways to reduce the risks of surface water flooding, and ways to make our electricity distribution network fit for net zero.

The terms of reference for the self-driving study are, broadly: How the government should plan, operate and maintain the UK’s road network (and related digital infrastructure) to ensure that CAM technologies are accounted for in strategic transport plans.

The Commission takes the government’s definition of a self-driving vehicle – one that has at least one self-driving feature, such that it meets a legally-defined threshold and is capable of safely driving itself with no human input.

The Commission assumes that most automated vehicles will also be connected – able to communicate with the driver, other vehicles, roadside infrastructure and other services via the cloud. It is therefore also interested in the benefits that connectivity can bring separately or in addition to self-driving.

Commissioner Michele Dix said: “This technology enables us to think differently about how we could manage the country’s congested roads, transforming the experiences of drivers and public transport users and giving business productivity a real boost.

“The study is a chance to understand the full implications of the technology for future infrastructure design and operation, and to identify the policies government will need to ensure it succeeds.”

NIC call for evidence on self-driving
NIC call for evidence on self-driving

Self-driving questions

Key questions the NIC is seeking to address include:

What opportunities and risks could self-driving vehicles present for freight and logistics? For example, regarding cost savings for retail and business customers.

What are the opportunities and risks that self-driving ride-hailing services could bring to households and wider society? For example, whether they might prompt greater use of shared transport services.

    What are the opportunities and risks for public transport from self-driving vehicles? For example, whether interventions may be needed to ensure the provision of affordable transport options in certain areas.

    Are there specific interventions in relation to physical highway infrastructure and/or digital connectivity that could enable greater benefits from the use of self-driving vehicles? For example, whether there is sometimes a case for dedicated lanes or other segregation.

    To what extent could self-driving vehicles help address existing inequalities and improve transport inclusion? For example, for people who are unable to drive due to a disability or age.

    Deadline: 3 June

    Responses should be sent via email to [email protected] by the end of Monday 3 June 2024.

    An interim report is expected in summer 2024, with the Commission’s full conclusions due in February 2025.

    For further info please see the NIC website.

    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, talks self-driving.

    Huge trust issue: Why self-driving must keep its accessibility promise

    With improved accessibility consistently quoted as a key benefit of self-driving, it was shocking to hear Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), warn Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024 of rising disillusionment.

    So, in the spirit of Prof Paul Newman’s challenge to “ask difficult questions”, we invited McCullough to expand on his assertion that the disabled community feel excluded when new technologies, like connected and automated vehicles, are introduced.

    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the RiDC, talks self-driving
    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the RiDC, talks self-driving

    What do you see as the likely impacts of self-driving for disabled people?

    “Self-driving can clearly be a transformative technology for a lot of disabled people, particularly those who find public transport inaccessible or cannot drive. In a world where you are unable to drive, whether that’s due to a vision or dexterity impairment, or a learning disability, the first and last mile is a huge issue. An on-demand self-driving service, taking you from your door to wherever you need to go – a transport hub, hospital or shopping centre – could be a gamechanger, theoretically a wonderful step forward.

    “The problem is nobody’s really talking about how to design these things to make them accessible, and nobody’s really talking to disabled people about their concerns. We’re actively working to address that now – doing research with TRL into disabled peoples’ attitudes to connected and autonomous vehicles, and doing webinars and panels with Zenzic to engage more with the self-driving industry.”

    Can you give some examples of the transport challenges that need solving?

    “For starters, the Motability Foundation found that disabled people are 38% less likely to use UK public transport than non-disabled people. That’s a damning statistic and it hasn’t changed in over a decade. The fact is our public transport services have structural, financial and attitudinal issues which act as barriers to disabled people.

    “There are approximately two million people registered blind or partially sighted people in the UK. Street environments alone present enough challenges for them, things like travelling on the tube can be fraught with difficulties – from annoyances like people petting their guide dogs, to the lack of audio feedback on contactless payment terminals, to anxieties like ‘what if something goes wrong?’

    “As we’ve seen with charging points for electric vehicles, the anxieties are multiplied for disabled people. To try and understand the pain points, and then to use design to build trust and acceptance, that’s still a fanciful concept for a lot of people. It should be considered best practice.”

    Is human-to-human customer service essential to building trust in self-driving?

    “Regardless of whether you’re disabled or not, there will initially be a degree of anxiety about travelling in a driverless vehicle, even if there’s a member of staff on board. The existence of very responsive support is vital, but we don’t yet know what level of assurance is enough. If there’s a special assistance button – somebody on the end of the line who knows where you are, understands your impairments and can sort the problem quickly, or get somebody out to help you – is that enough?

    “How does the provision of such clear customer service affect the business case? Profit margin aside, what about the social case? Time and again we find that when a technology runs away with itself, disabled people almost inevitably get forgotten. Companies then go back and try to put fixes in place, and end up spending a lot more money than they would if they had started by asking: how do we make this accessible for everyone, not just 80% of the population?”

    Have your say on self-driving by joining The RiDC Panel
    Have your say on self-driving by joining The RiDC Panel

    Any disabled readers interested in joining The RiDC Panel, the charity’s 4,000-strong research group, please visit

    rFpro joins ASAM to set standards for simulation-based self-driving testing

    Self-driving standards: rFpro joins ASAM

    In late March, rFpro announced that it had joined the prestigious Association for Standardization of Automation and Measuring Systems (ASAM).

    Working with OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, research institutes and engineering service providers, the Germany-based non-profit has a mission to establish common standards for the development and testing of all automotive systems.

    Of particular interest to self-driving is the OpenMATERIAL project. Initiated by BMW, it aims to create a complete set of standards for the simulation-based testing of automated driving functions. 

    Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro, said: “Defining material properties is a key strength for rFpro so we are keen to be involved in OpenMATERIAL to help direct and progress this standard.

    “Material definitions have been loosely structured to date, so standardising this would bring huge benefits, particularly for the development of virtual sensor models.”

    ASAM CEO Marius Dupuis added: “We are pleased to accept rFpro as a member and welcome their active participation in the OpenMATERIAL project.”

    For more on rFpro please see our recent feature: CCAV turn to F1’s rFpro for super realistic self-driving simulation software

    Cars of the Future self-driving event report: Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Enormous UK self-driving business opportunity: Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    A perennial highlight of the self-driving calendar, mid-March means Zenzic Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) Innovators’ Day at the IET in London.

    If 2022 celebrated the shared vision of societal benefits, and last year focused on global R&D leadership, CAM Innovators 2024 majored on the self-driving business case.

    Keynote speakers

    With Minister of State for the Investment Security Unit, Nusrat Ghani MP, as the first keynote speaker, there was an immediate sense that UK self-driving had truly arrived. Not in theory, but in Parliament, in international finance markets, and in providing quality services to the paying public.

    In a short welcome speech, self-driving industry legend Prof. Paul Newman CBE, described the process of gaining National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approval for the Oxa Driver-powered Beep shuttles in Florida.

    He highlighted the extraordinary progress in AI over the last three years, the importance of the AV Bill, and the need to progress beyond R&D to real-world issues like where to deploy.

    He then introduced Ghani, who also focused on commercialisation. “Self-driving represents an enormous opportunity,” she said. “The AV Bill provides a comprehensive framework for British firms to lead the world in greener, safer and more reliable transport.”

    Self-driving industry legend Prof. Paul Newman and Nusrat Ghani MP at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Self-driving legend Prof. Paul Newman and Nusrat Ghani MP at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Following a ‘fireside chat’ with Ghani covering the necessity to build trust and the role of local authorities, Newman then introduced the second keynote speaker: Sir John Armitt CBE, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC).

    Sir John opened with the famous quote by Peter Drucker that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. He explained that the NIC exists to provide the UK government with impartial, expert advice on major long term infrastructure challenges. “The opportunities offered by these technologies are amazing,” he said, “and uncertainty should not be a reason to do nothing.”

    Media huddle

    Us journos were then whisked off for a ‘media huddle’ with the Minister, Sir John and Newman, at which we were encouraged to ask difficult questions.

    Ok. So, how are hard-pressed local authorities expected to fund investment in self-driving services? What is the likely timescale for widespread UK rollout? Has the Cruise incident in America changed the thinking over here?

    There was broad agreement that the commercial market doesn’t always work for essential public transport. Without putting a date on it, Newman likened self-driving adoption to water flowing downhill – it will quickly find its way and there will be countless second order effects.

    Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Taking a helicopter view, Sir John pointed out that complexities were only to be expected in such technically advanced engineering, and that even Brunel delivered late and over budget!

    Unfortunately, these media duties meant we missed the shaping regulation session, notably featuring George Ivanov, Head of International Policy at Waymo. He apparently expressed frustration at the lack of legislative progress in the UK and refused to be drawn on when Waymo might begin operating here.

    Self-driving successes

    After a short break, Mark Cracknell, Program Director at Zenzic, walked us through “12 months of success”, including the announcement of Cohort 4, the expansion of CAM Testbed UK (now including Catesby Tunnel and Tees Valley), and the launch of PAVE UK.

    UK self-driving R&D facilities: CAM Testbed
    UK self-driving R&D facilities: CAM Testbed

    Alan Walker of Syselek then moderated a panel on developing the CAM supply chain featuring Dr. Martin Dürr of Dromos, Laura O’Neill of Belfast Harbour, Steven Russell of Stagecoach, and Steve Sutcliffe of Nissan – at least two more Self-Driving Industry Award winners there!

    Dürr was the first, but not the last, speaker to praise CCAV and Zenzic for their commercial acumen. “We moved to the UK because of their support,” he said. “We are now close to our first deployment, are involved in an exciting project to revitalise old railways using the Dromos system, and are also looking at manufacturing our vehicles here.”

    Next up, Agnessa Spanellis, senior lecturer in systems thinking at Edinburgh University, hosted a panel on trust and acceptance with Jonathan Smith of MFM, Ed Houghton of DG Cities, Gordon McCullough of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), and urban designer Helen Ng of Jacobs.

    Although improved accessibility is one of the most frequently quoted benefits of self-driving, McCullough reported that the disabled community are already starting to feel excluded. This cannot be ignored and we will bring you more from the RiDC in the coming weeks.

    Following a short morning wrap-up by Kate Jack, of Standec, it was lunchtime. Amidst intense networking, the fish and chips was undoubtedly the dish of choice.

    Self-driving insurance

    Far from a post-lunch lull, the afternoon kicked-off with probably the best panel of the day – on insurance. Charlotte Greenacre, of Thatcham Research, laid the groundwork. For starters, some insurers are now refusing to insure EVs, much of our legislation is “not fit for the modern world”, and that’s before we even get into the different liabilities.

    Over to Jonathan Fong, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), to moderate a panel featuring Matt Daley of rFpro, Chris Jones of Admiral Pioneer, Rebecca Marsden of Oxa, Sam Tiltman of Marsh, and Jamie Wilson of Alexander Dennis.

    Self-driving insurance panel at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Self-driving insurance panel at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Wilson outlined the challenges of evaluating risk in the continually changing environment of a bus route, and the considerably more difficult task of doing similar for free-roaming cars.

    “Insurance is mission critical in preparation for mass market adoption, and will look very different from personal lines,” said Marsden. Tiltman predicted that self-driving would “terraform” insurance over the next two decades, resulting in less accidents, less deaths and dramatically increased logistical efficiencies.

    On the requirement in the AV Bill for data sharing in the event of an accident, Daley raised the enticing prospect of using simulation to literally show exactly what happened.

    In the home straight now, Eman Martin-Vignerte, Government Affairs Director at Bosch UK, explained how a partnership with WeRide enabled them to develop a Level 4 car in just 18 months. The three key challenges now, she asserted, are complexity, homologation and scalability.

    Self-driving commercialisation

    The final panel of the day, “Getting the show on the road”, provided pleasing evidence of multiple viable UK self-driving businesses. Moderated by Amy Marshall of PA Consulting, it featured Miles Garner of Aurrigo, Jim Hutchinson of Fusion Processing, Ben Jardine of eVersum, Louise Lawrence of WSP, and Ian Pulford of Ohmio UK.

    Not only a leader in self-driving passenger vehicle manufacturing, Coventry-based Aurrigo is enjoying commercial success in automated baggage handling, notably at the multi-award-winning Changi Airport in Singapore. “We now have paying customers, and we thank Innovate, CCAV and Zenzic for their help in getting us here,” said Garner.

    Fusion, of course, provided software to our reigning Self-Driving Vehicle of the Year champion, CAVForth, which has already given tens of thousands of passengers their first taste of self-driving public transport in Scotland. “The next step is taking out the safety driver and moving to commercial success,” said Hutchinson.

    Summarising the info-packed day, former Minister of State for Digital and Creative Industries, now executive chair at WMG, Margot James, reflected on the ability of CAM to improve safety and “bring about a more inclusive society”. She emphasised the urgent need to pass the AV Bill to enable UK self-driving to flourish.

    We certainly hope that will be in place by this time next year, for CAM Innovators 2025. In the meantime, let’s finish with this intriguing snapshot – traffic on the Embankment as we arrived at the IET for CAM Innovators 2023, when there was a tube strike, and this year. Spot the difference!

    Traffic on the Embankment for CAM Innovators 2023 and 2024
    Traffic on the Embankment for CAM Innovators 2023 and 2024

    For more on accelerating the self-driving revolution, and to apply for CAM Scale-up Cohort 5, visit the Zenzic website.

    Cars of the Future self-driving event report: SMMT Connected 2024

    Great British self-driving at SMMT Connected 2024

    Like a wily international manager giving a tournament debut to a wildly talented prodigy, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) put self-driving front and centre of its eagerly anticipated Connected 2024 event.

    Lined up outside The QEII Centre, in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, were some of the best British self-driving vehicles – a CAVForth bus, an Oxa modified Ford pickup, and an Aurrigo airport Auto-Dolly – and the impressive but not self-driving Ford Mustang Mach-E.

    SMMT Connected 2024 self-driving vehicles
    SMMT Connected 2024 vehicle line-up

    For those in the sector, it was a pinch yourself moment – no longer some side quest from driver assistance, this was high profile backing for true self-driving from one of the UK’s largest trade associations.

    Self-driving press briefing

    The day (Thursday 14 March) started early, with an 8am press briefing by SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes. He set out why “the UK auto sector is calling for the swift passing of the Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill to deliver long-term economic and social benefits”, notably preventing 53,000 serious accidents by 2040 and delivering a £38bn economic boost… if the Bill is enacted in this parliament.

    “Further delay risks leaving Britain in the slow lane, jeopardising our competitiveness,” he warned, highlighting new YouGov research for the SMMT showing that 29% of UK adults would happily use an automated bus, shuttle or taxi service today.

    This set the scene for a lively Q&A with David Wong, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager at the SMMT, Oxa’s Autonomy Systems and Regulatory Expert, Bryn Balcombe (formerly of F1 and Roborace), and Prof. David Keene, Chief Executive of Aurrigo.

    SMMT Connected 2024 press briefing
    SMMT Connected 2024 self-driving press briefing

    Wong refenced the launch of PAVE UK and the need to build public trust, while Balcombe (more from him later) urged vehicle manufactures to speed up the adoption of brake- and steer-by-wire in readiness for automation.

    Prof. Keene explained that, as well as being a tier one supplier to the likes of JLR and Bentley, and working on self-driving passenger vehicles, Aurrigo is now the world leader in automated baggage handling at airports. Despite the current state of tech stocks globally, he expressed pride in Aurrigo being listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

    Transport Minister

    All this, remember, before the main conference had even begun! Upstairs, in an auditorium packed with 300+ delegates, broadcaster Katie Derham introduced the first keynote speaker, the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Secretary of State for Transport.

    He enthused about mobility “without the responsibility of driving”, his experience of travelling in a Wayve car in London, and the opportunity for “world leading regulation” to “transform the life chances of the disadvantaged”.

    Transport Secretary Harper takes a self-driving ride to announce the AV Bill

    Predictably, questions from our broadsheet colleagues then focused on electric cars! Fair points to which Harper provided more than adequate answers.

    Dr. Celine Laurent-Winter, Vice President of Connected Vehicle Platforms at BMW Group, then captured the imagination with the promise of an enjoyable journey to the south of France, complete with in-car luxuries, no traffic jams or breakdowns, and the vehicle handling all the cross-channel arrangements. “Premium connectivity is a must to enable this,” she said.

    Derham then hosted a fireside chat with Maria Uvarova, SVP of Software Product at Stellantis, and Tom Stringer, Product Strategy Director at JLR. “Statistics tell us that AVs are safer,” said Uvarova, while Stringer insisted that personal ownership would remain the preferred option at the pricier end of the market.

    Sunshine at SMMT Connected 2024
    Sunshine at SMMT Connected 2024

    Self-driving panels

    If this is starting to sound more connected than self-driving, fear not. The next panel, moderated by Ben Gardner, of law firm Shoosmiths, and featuring Dr René Hosse, Head of AD System Definition at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Isobel Pastor, Head of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and Prof. Keene of Aurrigo, was titled: “Making the quantum leap: overcoming the remaining challenges to a safe and responsible commercial rollout of automated vehicles”.

    PAVE UK got another mention, with Gardner saying: “The AV Bill is a fantastic first step and may it sail through parliament.” Hosse reiterated the importance of being utterly transparent about what the technology can and can’t do. In response to a question about the likely timescale, Pastor said: “The target is 2026, in line with what we are hearing from industry, and there will also be more advanced trials.”

    The next panel, on Trustworthy AI, was moderated by Cerys Wyn Davies of law firm Pinsent Masons, and featured Sarah Gates of Wayve, Kevin Green of Logistics UK, Rob Rugman of Motability Operations, and Jim Sanders, of the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB).

    Highlighting Wayve’s Lingo tool, which enables the software to explain its actions using language, Gates asserted: “The only way to achieve safety is AI”. Green admitted there had not been the highest level of focus on CAM in the CV sector due to other priorities such as clean fuel. Similarly, Rugman was more focused on connectivity because “it is here today.”  

    Sanders raised the thorny issue of self-driving public transport negatively impacting blind people by removing the reassurance and assistance of the driver. He made a compelling case that designing for inclusivity was proven to result in significant unforeseen benefits, such as the widespread adoption of voice commands.

    MH at SMMT 2024

    Admirably keeping the attention before lunch, Robert Smith, of Digital Catapult, drew on his 35 years in AI to argue that it is “a goal rather than a technology”. He used an AI-generated picture of a car with four sideways wheels to expose the limitations.

    The first session after lunch, a remote presentation by Maria Cristina Galassi, of the European Commission, was unfortunately hindered by technical issues. But we were soon back up to speed with another heavyweight panel featuring Peter Hafmar, Head of Autonomous Solutions at Scania, Ali Ihsan, of L4 software provider ADASTEC, and George Ivanov, Head of International Policy at Waymo (formerly Google’s Self-Driving Car Project).

    Hafmar emphasised the surprising extent of data sharing across the leading companies, while Ivanov pointed to “statistically credible data” from the US showing self-driving to be 85% safer against a human benchmark.

    After Johannes Springer, of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), outlined his organisation’s work in uniting the telecom and auto industries, he joined a panel on “The critical enablers that pave the way for connected and automated mobility.”

    Featuring Amelia Armour, of Amadeus Capital Partners, Lee Callaghan, of insurer Aviva, Andrew Hart, of SBD Automotive, and Joe Poynter, of global address system What3words, it covered everything from cybersecurity (we don’t invest as heavily as sectors such as banking), to an initiative in the Netherlands to makes all traffic lights smart (huge benefits for relatively little cost), to accident data reporting (vital to understand what happened and why).

    We were in the home straight now, and the pace was picking up. Standing in for Prof. Paul Newman, Bryn Balcombe of Oxa walked us through the key lines in the AV Bill.

    He reflected on that fact that it took 19 months to investigate the death of Elaine Herzberg, and used the notorious 2021 Hamilton Verstappen F1 crash at Monza – the one where Lewis said the halo saved him – to explain how UK self-driving crashes would be investigated.

    Shadow Minister

    Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP, at SMMT Connected 2024
    Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP

    Finally, with more than half an eye on the next general election, Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP, reiterated that “Labour will support the AV Bill currently going through the Commons“, and reintroduce the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

    Returning to our opening analogy, this was another momentous day for UK self-driving – the wider automotive industry acknowledging that automated mobility is a gamechanger ready to be carefully introduced. MPs from all sides are supportive and the best regulatory framework in the world is almost in place. Now, let’s get Britain self-driving!

    Calling all automated mobility professionals… enter the Self-Driving Industry Awards today!

    Are you the best of the best? Entries open for the Self-Driving Industry Awards 2024

    Presented by, entries for the second annual Self-Driving Industry Awards are open now, to once again celebrate excellence in automated mobility, in the UK and internationally.

    As widely reported – here and here and here and more – last year’s inaugural event saw companies from four continents attend a glittering ceremony at Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery, with Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis winning the headline Vehicle of the Year award for Project CAVForth.

    Reigning Self-Driving Industry Awards Vehicle of the Year: CAVForth
    Reigning Self-Driving Industry Awards Vehicle of the Year: CAVForth

    Self-Driving Industry Awards 2024

    SDIA 2024 will follow the same peer-led safety-focused format, with entrants in 10 categories – Aftermarket, Design, Hardware, Insurance, Legal, Research, Software, Testing, Trust and V2X – gaining the right to nominate an individual and a vehicle for the top honours. Editor, Neil Kennett, said: “The first Self-Driving Industry Awards exceeded all expectations, so the only big change for 2024 is greater emphasis on user experience in the Trust category. This reflects the fact that self-driving is becoming an everyday reality for ever more people.

    “From robotaxis in America to the CAVForth buses in Scotland, a growing number of operators are providing an increasingly diverse range of safe and efficient passenger and freight services. These prestigious awards recognise and celebrate the world’s best new automated mobility products, and the incredible people behind them.”

    Highlights from the 2023 Self-Driving Industry Awards

    The deadline for entries is 5pm UK-time on Friday 20 September, with all shortlisted candidates receiving an invitation to the hottest show in town… the SDIA 2024 awards ceremony.

    To enter, please visit the Awards page #SDIA24