UK fleet management specialist Venson has published a free white paper on self-driving…

Venson: Fleet operators will be in the vanguard of safe self-driving

UK fleet management specialist, Venson Automotive Solutions, has published a new white paper, The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation, to help businesses keep track of the latest developments in self-driving.

With multiple new technologies now very close to being market-ready, and the legislative framework taking shape, Venson is urging fleet managers to future-proof the sector for self-driving, just as they are doing with electric vehicles (EVs).

An important part of this is recognising that, along with the promise of an improved environment for vulnerable road users, decreased traffic volumes, improved safety and more shared mobility, there will be new duties and obligations for those with responsibility for mobility within organisations.

For example, safe self-driving rollout will require fleet managers to embrace the new concepts devised by the Law Commissions, such as the Authorised Self-Driving Entity (ASDE) – the manufacturer or developer that puts the vehicle forward for authorisation and takes responsibility for its actions – and the No User-in-Charge (NUIC).

To obtain a NUIC operator licence, the fleet managers of passenger service and freight companies will need to meet certain requirements, including being ‘of good repute’ and having ‘appropriate financial standing’.

The C in connected and automated mobility (CAM) will also bring many benefits, not least the massive safety gains facilitated by having real-time warnings about potential hazards.

When it comes to insurance, again, it will be imperative for both fleet managers and drivers to have a full and clear understanding of the vehicle’s limitations.

UK self-driving case studies feature in new Venson white paper
UK self-driving case studies feature in new Venson white paper

Self-driving fleet comment

Simon Staton, Client Management Director at Venson, said: “CAM will have a significant impact on fleet managers and only by horizon-scanning, adapting and developing the fleet management role will UK businesses and vulnerable road users be able to benefit from it.

“Just as the fleet industry is taking the reins and steering electrification in the UK, the importance of the fleet manager cannot be understated as we journey towards full driving automation.

“As fleets juggle lagging service, maintenance and repair (SMR), and elastic lead times on new vehicles, CAM may seem too far into the future. However, driving learning and continuous professional development (CPD) on CAM is fundamentally important to our ability to steer development of the fleet function.

“Whether it is keeping tabs on UK self-driving regulation, the impact of CAM on the Highway Code, or how connectivity, already enabling remote diagnostics, will empower prognostics – the ability to fix things before they go wrong – it is up to us as a sector to keep one step ahead.

“There has been much talk about the dawn of fully autonomous vehicles. However, many of the vehicles we drive today already encompass much of this technology.

“Safe self-driving will change the world for the better and fleet operators will be in the vanguard, taking on vital new responsibilities and reaping the commercial benefits.”

Self-driving white paper

The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation features many names familiar to Cars of the Future readers, including Beam Connectivity, BSI, CCAV, Reed Mobility, Thatcham and Zenzic.

Zenzic is profiled in Venson's The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation white paper
Zenzic is profiled in Venson’s The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation white paper

It profiles the Oxa zero-occupancy trial, the CAVForth project in Scotland (winner of the Vehicle of the Year Award at the recent Self-driving Industry Awards), Milton Park, Wayve and Imperium Drive, along with expert comments by Malcolm Wilkinson, of National Highways, and Steve Gooding, of the RAC Foundation, among many others.

It also highlights the 2023 Communications Toolkit, developed by the Automated Vehicle Driver Responsibility in Vehicle Education group (AV- DRIVE), featuring important inputs by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The full Venson white paper, The Journey Towards Full Driving Automation, is free and available for download from

Highlights from and reaction to the inaugural Self-driving Industry Awards…

Self-driving Industry Awards 2023: Event best bits and media coverage

A huge thank you to everyone who entered the inaugural Cars of the Future Self-driving Industry Awards. Here’s a short video of the presentation ceremony at the Turner Contemporary in Margate on 17 November 2023…

For more on #sdia23 – including a full list of winners – please click here

Self-driving Media Coverage

Here’s some selected media coverage of #sdia23…

Town Mayor of Margate, Rob Yates, presents the inaugural Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award to Peter Stephens of Stagecoach and Matt Lawrence of Alexander Dennis
Town Mayor of Margate, Rob Yates, presents the inaugural Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award to Peter Stephens of Stagecoach and Matt Lawrence of Alexander Dennis

“CAVForth Bus Wins 1st Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award” Automotive World

“Autonomous Enviro200AV is Vehicle of the Year” Bus & Coach Buyer

“CAV Forth bus wins self-driving industry Vehicle of the Year Award” Highways News

“Beam Connectivity wins Self-Driving Industry Award for Innovation in V2X Technology” Medium

“Reed Mobility research recognised at Self-Driving Industry Awards” RFRF

“CAVForth wins headline accolade at Self-Driving Industry Awards” Route One

“Arbe Clinches Top Self-Driving Award 2023” Self Drive News

“CAVForth Bus wins first Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year award” SMMT

“Arbe Wins Self-Driving Industry 2023 Award from Cars of the Future” Street Insider

“Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV wins Vehicle of the Year at Self-Driving Industry Awards” The Manufacturer

“CAVForth wins first Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year award” Traffic Technology Today

“Scotland’s CAVForth awarded top marks” Transport Network

Self-driving Awards 2024

See you at the Turner Contemporary for the Self-driving Industry Awards 2024
See you at the Turner Contemporary for the Self-driving Industry Awards 2024



Cruise resignations with US public confidence in self-driving under pressure

Self-driving suspension costs 2 Cruise co-founders their dream jobs

It has taken about a month, but the self-driving testing permit suspension in California has cost two Cruise high-ups their jobs, with both co-founder and CEO, Kyle Vogt, and fellow co-founder and chief product officer, Daniel Kan, gone in the space of 24 hours.

Vogt went first, on Sunday 19 November, telling staff in an email seen by Reuters: “I have resigned from my position.

“As CEO, I take responsibility for the situation Cruise is in today. There are no excuses, and there is no sugar coating what has happened. We need to double down on safety, transparency, and community engagement.”

He was followed out the door the very next day by Kan, who announced his resignation in a Slack message to staff, noting that Cruise robotaxis have been providing 10,000 rides per week.

“I know Cruise will achieve that again soon,” he said.

Cruise self-driving system 2023
Cruise self-driving system 2023

Self-driving resignations

The resignations come weeks after a Cruise car struck a pedestrian following a hit-and-run by a human-driven vehicle – their response to which led to the drastic California Department of Motor Vehicles action.

US self-driving expert, Alex Roy, described the departures as inevitable.

Cruise are effectively now back to testing with a safety driver – around the same stage we’re at in the UK, while we wait for the new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill to legalise full self-driving.

If it was just a case of going back to square one, that’d be bad enough, but the massive dent to already fragile public confidence is now an issue for the whole industry globally.

Meet the winners of the 2023 Self-driving Industry Awards…

The 1st Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award Winner is: CAVForth

The headline Vehicle of the Year prize at the inaugural Self-driving Industry Awards, held at the Turner Contemporary in Margate on 17 November 2023, went to Project CAVForth – a fleet of five single-decker, low-emission Stagecoach buses which have been taking fares in Scotland daily since May, giving tens of thousands of passengers their first taste of self-driving public transport.

Self-driving Industry Award Winners 2023

Presented by, the Self-driving Industry Awards celebrate excellence in connected and automated mobility (CAM), in the UK and internationally. Peer recognition played a vital role, with all entrants gaining the right to nominate individuals and vehicles for the top honours.

At the glittering awards ceremony, Councillor Rob Yates, Town Mayor of Margate, presented the inaugural Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award to Peter Stephens, Public Affairs Director at Stagecoach, and Matt Lawrence, Fleet Business Development Director at Alexander Dennis.

Town Mayor of Margate, Rob Yates, presents the inaugural Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award to Peter Stephens of Stagecoach and Matt Lawrence of Alexander Dennis
Town Mayor of Margate, Rob Yates, presents the inaugural Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award to Peter Stephens of Stagecoach and Matt Lawrence of Alexander Dennis

Peter Stephens said: “We are proud to have provided the first autonomous bus fleet to the UK and the first service to our local communities in East Scotland. This Self-Driving Industry Award stands as a testament to the belief of our partners, our staff, and our customers, who have all put their trust in our vision. The service is live, and we invite anyone to come experience AB1, autonomous bus no.1, for themselves!”

Matthew Lawrence added: “We are honoured to receive the Vehicle of the Year award at the inaugural Self-Driving Industry Awards for our first fleet of Enviro200AV. This achievement is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our engineering team and partners. Together, we are driving the future of autonomous transportation, setting new benchmarks for passenger experience, safety, efficiency, and sustainability.”

Global self-driving

The category winners included companies from Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

The big individual prizes went to Alex Kendall, CEO of Wayve (Self-driving Industry Person of the Year 2023), Rebecca Posner, Head of Social and Behavioural Research at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (Self-driving Industry Consumer Champion 2023), and Professor Paul Newman CBE, President at Oxa (Self-driving Industry Legend 2023). editor, Neil Kennett, said: “Self-driving is about to completely revolutionise how people and goods move. The tech is already about as safe as the average human driver, and it’s only going to get better.

“From a UK perspective, following the King’s Speech, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to define a successful, safety-first approach to rollout. In stark contrast to the robotaxi controversy in California, we are seen as a trusted leader in self-driving, widely recognised as the best place to test.

“Apart from the eye-catching livery, the CAVForth buses appear quite ordinary. In fact, they are extraordinary, operating with a safety driver at SAE Level 4 on journeys across the iconic Forth Road Bridge. With partners including Alexander Dennis, Fusion Processing and Stagecoach, we were delighted to present Project CAVForth with the first ever Self-driving Industry Vehicle of the Year Award.

“To illustrate just how close we are to legalisation, last week, our Person of the Year winner, Alex Kendall of Wayve, gave Transport Secretary Mark Harper a self-driving lift to Parliament for the first reading of the new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill.”

#sdia23 Person of the Year, Alex Kendall, gives Transport Secretary Mark Harper a lift

Self-driving winners

Here’s the full list of 2023 Self-driving Industry Award winners:

  • Vehicle of the Year: Project CAVForth
  • Person of the Year: Alex Kendall, Wayve
  • Consumer Champion: Rebecca Posner, CCAV
  • Industry Legend: Professor Paul Newman CBE, Oxa
  • Aftermarket Award: Jifeline
  • Design Award: Dromos
  • Hardware Award: Arbe Robotics
  • Foundational Software Award: Applied EV
  • Insurance Award: Marsh
  • Legal Award: Burges Salmon LLP
  • Research Award: Reed Mobility
  • Sensing Software Award: LeddarTech
  • Testing Award: Kodiak Robotics
  • Trust Award: Angoka
  • V2X Award: Beam Connectivity
  • Special Recognition Award: Kenneth Clarke, Silvera Automotive Solutions
  • Special Recognition Award: Alex Wells, Aftermarket Magazine

The event was hosted by Jim Carey and the judging panel included Alex Bainbridge of Autoura, Corey Clothier of Aribo, and Neil Kennett of Cars of the Future. Reflecting the stong sustainability theme, the event charity was Rise Up Clean Up Margate, which is working to get a beach cleaning robot for the Kent town’s Main Sands.

Turner Contemporary on 17 November 2023
Turner Contemporary on 17 November 2023

Councillor Rob Yates reiterated an ambition to have self-driving cars ferry delegates from Margate Station to the Turner for next year’s Self-driving Industry Awards 2024. It couldn’t possibly be this sunny two years running, could it?

More to follow…

UK Self-Driving All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) recommendations to maximise economic, environmental and safety benefits

Self-Driving APPG makes 8 recommendations to maximise benefits

Following a series of industry workshops and an open call for evidence, the Self-Driving All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has published a well-informed policy paper on the economic, environmental and safety benefits of self-driving vehicles (SDVs).

In the foreword, chairman Ben Everitt MP explains that Starship delivery robots have become commonplace in the streets of his constituency, Milton Keynes, with the City Council recently securing £2m in Government funding for a state-of-the-art self-driving shuttle service.

Self-Driving APPG Chairman Ben Everitt MP
Self-Driving APPG Chairman Ben Everitt MP

“There has never been a more important time to be championing this exciting and growing industry,” he said. “This is why the APPG for Self-Driving Vehicles launched a consultation on the economic, environmental, and safety benefits. Through the consultation we collected evidence from academics, insurance experts, and legal voices working in the sector.

“What it has highlighted in particular for me is that self-driving vehicles represent a huge investment opportunity for the UK. If the Government introduces self-driving vehicle legislation, investor confidence in British businesses would be strengthened.

“Beyond the benefits to our economy, SDVs could also make our roads safer, reconnect people and communities who find it hard to travel currently, and help us to reach Net Zero.”

Self-driving recommendations

The paper went on to make eight key recommendations and, pleasingly, the top one was met within days of it being published – a call for legislation to legalise the commercial deployment of SDVs in the UK in this year’s King’s Speech. Tick!

Further recommendations included:

  • Alternative legislative pathways for advanced driverless trials.
  • A sector-specific approach to AI regulation.
  • R&D into smart technology to optimise SDV road use for reduced emissions and increased safety.
  • Dialogue to ensure the benefits are understood and harnessed by the rail, maritime and aviation sectors.
  • Clarity for insurers and developers to create robust safety protocols and liability frameworks.
  • Balanced and proportionate safety controls for deployment.
  • The Government working with industry to champion self-driving and boost public awareness.

Economic benefits

On the economic impact, the paper said: “The UK has a unique opportunity for leadership in an industry that could be worth £750 billion globally by 2035. The UK is already home to several innovative SDV companies that are trialling their vehicles on UK roads, and the Government’s analysis of the sector showed that it could potentially generate £42 billion and 38,000 jobs for the UK economy by 2035. Research by the SMMT suggest the CAM sector as a whole could be worth £66 billion by 2040.  But the UK risks falling behind other countries and losing this potential crown jewel sector by moving too slowly to implement the legislative proposals made by the Law Commission in 2022.

“During the consultation, contributors pointed out that many studies have shown that there is an opportunity to incorporate self-driving technology into mass transit systems, which has the potential to deliver benefits to the public more cheaply than upgrading the current system. Industry called for more to be done to bring local authorities on board and think about potential applications for self-driving technology for local transport services.”

Environmental benefits

On the environmental impact, it said: “Self-driving vehicles can help to eliminate some of the most emissions-intensive driving-related behaviours. According to the Climate Change Committee, surface transport accounts for 22% of UK greenhouse gas emissions – the largest individual share of any sector. There was a consensus from contributors that SDVs have an important role to play in the transition to Net Zero.

“Contributors pointed out that more was needed to improve the connectivity of transport infrastructure in order to achieve the full benefits of SDVs on UK roads. A recent EU study found that connected vehicles on city roads could reduce emissions by 18% and a UK study reported that traffic light improvement could also reduce emissions by 17%.”

Safety benefits

Finally, on the safety impact, it said: “The four leading causes of transport accidents are: driver error; reckless behaviour; disobeying traffic laws; and driver impairment. Self-driving vehicles promise to be safer than human drivers, reducing the number of preventable tragedies on UK roads. This factor was also considered in the Transport Select Committee’s recent report, with several witnesses stressing the potential safety benefits presented by SDVs, and highlighting the Government’s safety ambition for this technology.

“Contributors highlighted research from the insurance industry that SDVs could save the NHS £2.3 billion annually in medical and ambulance costs by eliminating the 85% of accidents where human error is a contributory factor. Shared SDV services might also contribute to lowering the cost of patient transport services and reducing the cost impact of non-attendance at appointments.”

Self-Driving APPG policy paper, November 2023

The paper concluded with some brief thoughts on public perception, including: “Earlier this year, the Department for Transport conducted a survey into the public perceptions. Overall, the survey found that participants were overwhelmingly positive towards the development of SDVs, particularly as a form of shared transport, and noted benefits such as safety gains.”

Supported by AXA, Burges Salmon, Wayve and WSP, the full policy paper is available on the Self-Driving APPG website.

Industry reaction to self-driving in King’s Speech on 7 November 2023

Yes! Self-driving in King’s Speech 2023

In very welcome news, “self-driving vehicles” received a prominent mention in the King’s Speech at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday 7 November 2023.

This had been widely expected, but then it had been in the Queen’s Speech of 2022, when it surprisingly failed to materialise.

On Sunday, The Guardian noted that “tech bosses hope driverless car laws will clear the road for UK software industry”, while The Times went over the top at just past midnight, declaring “Driverless buses and delivery vehicles to get green light”.

“My Lords and members of the House of Commons, it is mindful of the legacy of service and devotion to this country set by My beloved Mother, The late Queen, that I deliver this, the first King’s Speech in over 70 years,” King Charles began.

For our sector, the much anticipated key line came halfway through: “My Ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles, introduce new competition rules for digital markets, and encourage innovation in technologies such as machine learning.”

Following the Speech, The Independent was quick to confirm a “Bill to enable self-driving cars to be used on Britain’s roads… The Government says its Automated Vehicles Bill will provide the sector with the certainty and confidence it needs to develop the technology.”

Self-driving industry reaction

So there we have it, the UK has taken an historic step towards legal self-driving. Early industry reaction included…

AXA’s Tara Foley: “AXA welcomes the Government’s commitment to support this exciting technological advance that offers multiple benefits for the UK economy, road safety and green jobs.

“As a large motor insurer, we have long been calling for this legislation to improve road safety. Introducing a regulatory framework for self-driving has huge potential to save lives.

“Research shows that 88% of road collisions involve an element of human error which would be eliminated with self-driving vehicles.

“There are also benefits for the wider economy. It’s estimated that the self-driving industry will be worth £42 billion and create up to 50,000 highly skilled jobs by 2035, and a legislative framework opens up opportunities for businesses to capitalise on this. For insurers, it also provides crucial clarity for establishing liability.”

Wayve co-founder, Alex Kendall: “Today’s announcement that the Government will bring forward legislation for self-driving signals to the global self-driving industry that the UK Government is committed to fostering innovation for the future of transport.

“By setting out a clear path to commercialisation, new primary legislation for self-driving vehicles gives us the confidence to continue investing in R&D and growing our talent base here in the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to cement the UK’s role as a global centre of excellence for self-driving technology that will make our roads safer and unlock new growth.”

Brian Wong and Lucy Pegler, of law firm Burges Salmon, provide more background here including: “The first King’s Speech in 70 years has reaffirmed the Government’s intention to introduce legislation underpinning a new legal framework for self-driving vehicles… reform has been a long-time coming and, certainly from industry’s point of view, much-needed. 

“Much of the thinking, debate and groundwork has already been undertaken for this bill and, in the final session before the UK’s next General Election, that may be an all-important factor in circumstances where there is expected to be many competing calls for effective use of limited parliamentary time.”

Professor Paul Newman CBE, Co-founder of Oxa, said: “Building a regulatory framework that simultaneously encourages innovation alongside appropriate safety oversight and transparency will allow the public to build trust in these complex AI driven self-driving systems, and that is no small feat. Delivery of the AV Bill has taken a vast amount of smart thinking from agencies across the UK, including DfT, CCAV (Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles), the VCA, BSI, the Law Commission and Ministers and business leaders, founders and technologists like myself.

“The Bill will lead to new laws and a comprehensive regulatory framework creating a new class of driver (the first in 100 years) delivering clear partitioning of responsibilities and accountabilities for all the actors that must come together to enable self-driving vehicles at scale… If the Bill does its job, which I think it will, the UK will be ahead of the game with legal frameworks that aid development and, importantly, are not a retrofit solution.”

Lisa Johnson, of Starship Technologies, said:  “What the Autonomous Vehicle Bill means for companies like Starship we don’t know yet. Hugely positive that there is going to be legislation in this space, but, as we say a lot, it needs to cover the whole sector not just large, road-based vehicles. There are opportunities to support innovation and investment in last-mile that shouldn’t be missed.”

Philippe Colpron, Head of ZF Aftermarket, said: “For the UK is to fulfil its aspirations of becoming a tech powerhouse, it is imperative that emerging technologies are embraced, one of these being autonomous mobility. Though the ambition of having a widespread adoption is exciting, it’s vital to acknowledge that the transition to autonomous mobility won’t occur overnight as it will require, beyond technology readiness, a full eco-system of services.

“One crucial challenge which we should ensure not to overlook is the importance of predictive and connected maintenance solutions for the autonomous vehicles. While they promise advancements in safety, efficiency and convenience, their success is intricately linked to diligent and preventive maintenance solutions. There are currently over 42,000 repair and maintenance businesses across the UK and we must ensure to bring them along, for example through training and workshop technology, so they can continue servicing the vehicles of today and tomorrow.”

Dr Nick Reed, of Reed Mobility, said: “I’m very pleased for all involved in getting the Automated Vehicles bill into the King’s speech today – but this is not an end point. This is a trigger for the further hard work needed to establish safety and trust in this technology. It will not be easy and will need resolute focus on the essential data needed to give assurance in safe, efficient, ethical operation. We must also co-create solutions that meet the needs, expectations and desires of the communities into which the technology is deployed, gaining their input and support for new services. I look forward to helping make this happen.”

More to follow…

The full speech can be read and seen here

Self-driving In King’s Speech 2023

Building on HumanDrive and ServCity, we get the lowdown on Nissan’s self-driving evolution

Best place to test self-driving: Nissan UK leads evolvAD last mile trial

Alongside the unveiling of the sporty Concept 20-23 EV, at Nissan Design Europe in London on 25 September, came the announcement that every new Nissan in Europe will be all-electric from now on. Less widely reported was an important update on the evolvAD self-driving project.

Cars of the Future at the Concept 20-23 EV launch at Nissan Design Europe on 25 September

A press release confirmed that, in collaboration with consortium partners Connected Places Catapult, Humanising Autonomy, SBD Automotive and TRL, the CCAV-backed project will use 100% electric Nissan Leaf cars equipped with autonomous drive (AD) technology to study self-driving in urban residential and rural roads.

David Moss, Senior Vice President, Region Research & Development for Nissan AMIEO (Africa, Middle East, India, Europe, and Oceania), said: “We are extremely proud to be a part of the evolvAD project in the UK, working alongside some brilliant partners to test and trial our technology.

“Through Nissan Ambition 2030 we want to empower mobility for everyone, and autonomous drive technologies are critical to this effort as they offer huge benefits in terms of vehicle safety, environmental impact and accessibility.”

Neil Kennett talks self-driving at Nissan Design Europe in Sep 2023
Neil Kennett talks self-driving at Nissan Design Europe in Sep 2023

Self-driving at Nissan Technical Centre

Here, Robert Bateman, evolvAD Project Manager at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE), in Cranfield, explains more.For background, I’ve been at Nissan for over a quarter of a century, and for the last 12-13 years I’ve been involved in research and advanced engineering projects,” he said. “That covers a wide variety of work, but specifically we represent Nissan in Europe.

“Since 2017, we’ve been working for a group in Japan on autonomous vehicles. The first project was HumanDrive, which mainly involved motorway driving. As part of this project, in November 2019, we did The Grand Drive, still the longest self-driving journey in the UK, around 230 miles from Cranfield to Sunderland.

“After that, we thought, right, we need to go into a city. So, from 2020-23, we did ServCity in Greenwich, using the Smart Mobility Living Lab, the UK government’s CAM testbed in London. That was a significant progression – driving on arterial roads, dealing with more roadside furniture and a lot more pedestrians.

“Another aspect was having infrastructure communicating with the car. For example, getting an input regarding a bus at a standstill around the next corner – our car changed lanes in readiness before anybody else on the road even knew it was there! The car can work autonomously but V2I gives it a competitive edge, a bit of local knowledge. That’s what we were looking for on both HumanDrive and ServCity – the car driving smoothly, like a human.

“Having done highway and city centre driving, the logical next step was the last miles – getting from a rural village onto a motorway or navigating a small urban side street to make a delivery. That’s the purpose of evolvAD, to bookend the first two projects.

evolvAD Nissan Leaf self-driving test car, 2023
evolvAD Nissan Leaf self-driving test car, 2023

Last-mile self-driving

“It involves residential streets, speed bumps, mini roundabouts, width restrictions and, most importantly, dealing with traffic coming in the opposite direction. One of the issues with autonomous vehicles is, because of their safe nature, they will wait. Two connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) coming towards each other is fine – they’ll communicate and give way seamlessly. That might not be the case with human driven cars, so how do you deal with that?

“Other more challenging scenarios are rural lanes with extreme cambers and blind bends. There’s a risk that an autonomous vehicle might drive too slowly, to the extent that it becomes a hazard by frustrating the human drivers. Our solution is for the car to behave like a safe local driver, that’s the aim. When we send people out in our autonomous test cars we say ‘Have an uneventful ride!’, because we want it to feel normal.

“We also test in the US and Japan, but there are features specific to the UK which are harder to handle than the wide roads and bright sunshine of Silicon Valley. They don’t have things like unsynchronized pedestrian crossings. Our colleagues were initially quite shocked when they saw pedestrians dashing out in front of the car, not even at a crossing – people just don’t do that in Yokohama. Nissan realised the UK was the best place to test.

“evolvAD will be a 21-month project, running to March 2025, with the country road work conducted at the CAM testbed at Millbrook. It’s very impressive, the sort of speeds and Gs the vehicle can safely reach there now. It’s not one autonomous vehicle system, it’s multiple systems, and some of these technologies will mature more quickly than others.

Self-driving Nissan evolvAD test car, side view
Self-driving Nissan evolvAD test car, side view

Self-driving growth

“My team has grown considerably over the last six years. Before HumanDrive, in 2017, we had one full-time engineer. Now, we’ve got a group of research engineers, technicians and highly qualified test drivers. We’re responsible for procuring the hardware, developing the software, looking at costs and maintaining the vehicles. It also involves bringing through the next generation of engineers and technicians.

“As well as going through Nissan’s usual rigorous protocols, all our test drivers receive additional training for the specific requirements of autonomous vehicles, like holding their hands off the wheel. One of our technicians also trained as a test driver and is now a fully qualified engineer working with our ADAS team.

“Along with our project partners, evolvAD will support the development of the UK CAV supply base. It will further enhance our autonomous drive technology, a key pillar of the Nissan Ambition 2030 vision to create a cleaner, safer and more inclusive world.”

Self-driving experts respond to California DMV’s suspension of Cruise’s testing permit.

Huge self-driving controversy as California suspends Cruise’s testing permit

The immediate suspension of Cruise’s testing permit in California has sent shockwaves through the global self-driving industry, with the freewheeling US approach to roll-out under more scrutiny than at any time since the Uber ATG moment in 2018.

The full 24 October 2023 statement by The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) read: “Public safety remains the California DMV’s top priority, and the department’s autonomous vehicle regulations provide a framework to facilitate the safe testing and deployment of this technology on California public roads. When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits. There is no set time for a suspension.

“The California DMV today notified Cruise that the department is suspending Cruise’s autonomous vehicle deployment and driverless testing permits, effective immediately. The DMV has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction. This decision does not impact the company’s permit for testing with a safety driver.”

Self-driving issues

It went on to highlight four serious issues under consideration:

  1. Based upon the performance of the vehicles, the Department determines the manufacturer’s vehicles are not safe for the public’s operation.
  2. The manufacturer has misrepresented any information related to safety of the autonomous technology of its vehicles.
  3. Any act or omission of the manufacturer or one of its agents, employees, contractors, or designees which the department finds makes the conduct of autonomous vehicle testing on public roads by the manufacturer an unreasonable risk to the public.
  4. The department shall immediately suspend or revoke the Manufacturer’s Testing Permit or a Manufacturer’s Testing Permit – Driverless Vehicles if a manufacturer is engaging in a practice in such a manner that immediate suspension is required for the safety of persons on a public road.
California DMW statement re Cruise self-driving 24 Oct 2023
California DMW statement re Cruise self-driving 24 Oct 2023

Self-driving suspension

The suspension comes just weeks after a Cruise car struck a pedestrian following a hit-and-run by a human-driven vehicle – an incident the DMV was urgently investigating.

Cruise responded: “We will be pausing operations of our driverless AVs in San Francisco. Ultimately, we develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in an effort to save lives. Our teams are currently doing an analysis to identify potential enhancements to the AV’s response to this kind of extremely rare event.”

Cruise is owned by General Motors (GM), with CEO Mary Barra predicting earlier this year that it “could generate $50 billion a year in annual revenue by 2030”.

However, the California roll-out has many vocal critics, including the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).

“Despite the propaganda pushed by tech executives, Cruise has shown the world that robots are incapable of even coming close to achieving the high standards human operators meet each and every day,” said TWU President, John Samuelsen.

It is hard to overstate how serious this is for self-driving in the US. Two weeks ago, leading industry voices were fighting Cruise’s corner.  

For instance, Alex Roy, founder of Johnson & Roy, which advises “global clients whose mission is to improve the safety, experience, and sustainability of technology and mobility in service of humanity”, was highly critical of the NY Post headline “Self-driving car mows down woman, leaving her trapped underneath vehicle”. Yesterday, he said on Linkedin: “I might have been wrong in coming to Cruise’s defense”.

We recently interviewed AV safety expert Philip Koopman about the contrasting UK and US approaches to roll-out. We’ll bring you that very soon.

For now, Koopman had this to say on Linkedin: “I am becoming convinced that this is Cruise’s “Uber ATG moment”. In 2018 an Uber ATG test vehicle killed a pedestrian, due in large part due to an inadequate safety culture. That event triggered a profound safety culture transformation within the company, allowing them to continue development downstream. That legacy lives on in Aurora, the company that acquired much of the team. The question is whether Cruise will undergo a similar transformation, or will double down on a non-viable scale-at-any-cost strategy. So far, publicly observable signs are not promising.”

Self-driving Industry Awards 2023 entry deadline: Monday 23 October

Just a few days left to enter the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023

Celebrating excellence in connected and automated mobility, in the UK and internationally, entries for the inaugural Self-driving Industry Awards close at 5pm UK-time on Monday 23 October.

Presented by Cars of the Future, the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023 cover all aspects of this exciting and fast-growing ecosystem.

From impressive engineering and design developments to essential work in areas such as insurance and public trust, peer recognition plays an important part, with all entrants nominating a self-driving Person of the Year and Vehicle of the Year.

Self-driving Industry Awards spokesperson said: “If you’ve made a telling contribution to self-driving – launched the world’s best robotaxi or last-mile delivery robot, made a technological leap, or provided incredible thought leadership – then you should be entering these awards.”

For further info, including a full list of the award categories, please visit #SDIA23