Self-driving features in two flagship BBC programmes – Today and The Royal Institution Christmas Lecture

Great media coverage: The BBC has a very self-driving Christmas 2023

Throughout the five-year history of Cars of the Future, our Hyperbolic Headlines strand has highlighted the most egregious examples of negative self-driving media coverage.

Sometimes it is so biased or plain misinformed as to be quite amusing, but actually it is deadly serious, hugely damaging to consumer confidence.

Hats off, then, to the BBC for delivering not only some of the best consumer reporting we’ve seen to date, but also putting self-driving front and centre of its Christmas programming.

Christmas Lecture on self-driving

For starters, we highly recommend the 2023 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (here on Youtube if you’re outside the UK). Primarily aimed at 11-17 year olds, they are typically enjoyed by families [ok, I was forced to watch them by my dad and now happily do the same to my children!]. 

First televised on the BBC in 1936, the Christmas Lectures were conceived by Michael Faraday as an exciting new way of presenting science to young people. They have been held almost every year since 1825.

Professor Mike Wooldridge (Credit: Royal Institution)
Professor Mike Wooldridge (Credit: Royal Institution)

This year, Mike Wooldridge, Professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Oxford, explored “The dream of driverless cars” with help from our very own Industry Legend, Professor Paul Newman CBE, of Oxa.

This included analysing a real-life incident which occurred while Mike was travelling in Oxa’s test car in Oxford (with a safety driver). A human-driven car drove way too close to them on a roundabout, but the self-driving vehicle handled it smoothly and safely. Cue huge applause from the live teen audience in the theatre.

In any other month we’d have dedicated an entire article to this great show, but the Beeb had another treat in store.

Today on self-driving

On the days in between Christmas and New Year, James May (yes, he of The Grand Tour and formerly Top Gear) assumed guest editorship of the flagship Today news and current affairs programme.

This prestigious role has been filled in the past by Prince Harry, Greta Thunberg, Benjamin Zephaniah, Melinda Gates, Jarvis Cocker, Lewis Hamilton and Professor Stephen Hawking.

One of the three main subjects May chose to investigate, along with tea and hobbies (a man after our own heart), was self-driving. You can catch the highlights from 9.10 to 28.35 in this edit for BBC Sounds.

James May explored self-driving as guest editor of the Today programme
James May explored self-driving as guest editor of the Today programme

Questioning at the outset whether Level 5 self-driving was even possible, he began his research by trying out the Ford BlueCruise hands-free system, which is, as we know, is NOT self-driving.

He then spoke to Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, who has serious concerns about a “hybrid future” of mixed self-driving and human traffic. So far, May’s scepticism was only being reinforced. Then, as with the Christmas Lecture, Paul Newman came in to bat for self-driving.

He took May for a ride in an Oxa Ford Mondeo test car (with a safety driver) through an industrial estate on the outskirts of Oxford. “So, there we had a speedhump with a pedestrian crossing on top, and it recognised all of that,” admitted May. “This is annoying. This is slightly demolishing my prejudices. I have to say, I really might have to rewrite them a little bit.”

Newman softened the blow, saying: “You’re not wrong in the sense that it’s not immediate, but it’s hard to believe this technology isn’t going to arrive, and it’s hard to believe it isn’t going to be valuable and produce more choices.”

There followed a long interview with Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who explained: “Legislation is going through Parliament at the moment, so hopefully we’ll get that through by the end of 2024. Probably as early as 2026, people will start seeing some elements of these cars that have full self-driving capabilities being rolled-out.

“I’ve seen the technology being used in California, without a safety driver, so it exists, it works. What we’re doing is putting in place the proper legislation so that people can have full confidence in the safety.”

Responding to questions from May, “Why are we doing this? Who benefits?”, Harper said: “First of all, it will improve road safety. We already have very good road safety record in Britain, but there are still several thousand people a year killed on our roads – that could be improved.

“Second, it’s a big economic opportunity for Britain to get a big global share of the market. The final thing is there are a lot of people who currently don’t have the opportunity that many of us drivers take for granted. For example, people who have disabilities – this potentially opens up a whole new world of personal freedom.”

The 2026 quote lead to this BBC online news story – Driverless cars could be on some UK roads by the end of 2026, the transport secretary has told the BBC – which made headlines across the network, prompted articles in virtually every national newspaper, and got picked up internationally.

Is this a watershed moment in terms of UK self-driving media coverage? Time will tell, but it is certainly very welcome. Well done Oxa, and well done the BBC. 

Self-driving level visual realism – a look at rFpro’s new Ray Tracing simulation software

CCAV turn to F1’s rFpro for super realistic self-driving simulation software

A partner in not one but two of the major government-backed self-driving projects announced by CCAV in September 2023, Hampshire-based simulation software specialist rFpro is branching out from its traditional motorsport and automotive roots. MD Peter Daley explains how and why.

Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro
Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro

PD: “Yes, we’re a consortium partner in two of the Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility Supply Chain projects – DeepSafe and Sim4CAMSens.

“DeepSafe will develop simulation-based training to help automated vehicles handle edge cases, supporting verification and validation (V&V). Project leader dRISK bring a way of analysing the full range of unexpected driving scenarios, and other partners include Imperial College London, Claytex Services and DG Cities.

“Claytex, with whom we work closely, are also taking the lead in the Sim4CAMSens project, which has a core focus on sensor modelling and evaluation. Other partners here include the University of Warwick, National Physical Laboratory, Syselek, Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, Oxford RF and Techworkshub.

Self-driving environments

“At rFpro, we’ve been investing in driving simulation technology for years, allowing our customers to develop, test and optimise their vehicles more quickly, efficiently and effectively than they could by relying on real-world testing alone. We create very detailed large scale digital models of real-world environments, and offer high performance software which allows people to interact with those.

rFpro day/night in Tokyo simulation
rFpro day/night in Tokyo simulation

“Our real-time simulation software is used by many leading OEMs and professional motorsports teams (including in F1), in vehicle dynamics, human factors and other use cases.  However, the level of visual realism from images rendered in real-time using rasterising technology still wasn’t high enough to be used on its own for the training and testing of automated vehicle (AV) perception systems. Our new Ray Tracing technology addresses this. 

Self-driving realism

“With Ray Tracing, we can reliably simulate the huge number of reflections created by multiple light sources in a scene, even taking into account the properties of the materials the light is hitting, and apply this to every element in the scene as perceived by a vehicle-mounted sensor moving through it.

“Ray Tracing can be applied to the modelling of cameras, radar and lidar sensors. Our solution accurately replicates things like camera shutter effects, depth of field, lens distortion and light saturation across different weather and light conditions.

“Sensor vibrations coming from the vehicle moving across an uneven road surface are allowed for, as is the effect of motion blur from the relative motion between sensor and objects such as other vehicles, pedestrians or road signs and markings. 

Self-driving level of visual realism: Motion blur
Self-driving level visual realism: Motion blur
Self-driving level of visual realism: camera shutter slant effect
Self-driving level visual realism: Camera shutter slant effect

“In effect, the new technology accurately replicates what cameras and sensors really ‘see’ and presents it in ultra-high definition (UHD). It is a big leap forward and, taken together with rFpro’s renowned real-time solution, unique in the marketplace.

“The creation and use of synthetic test and training data, on a massive scale, to supplement the real-world testing of AV perception and control systems is now realistically achievable. We are excited to be continually finding new ways to support our customers in reaching their goals in this area.”

Report on the Self-Driving Vehicles APPG media briefing at Wayve in December 2023

Self-Driving Vehicles APPG holds London media briefing on AV Bill

The Self-Driving Vehicles All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) held a media briefing in London this week to provide an overview of the UK’s new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill.

Held at the London HQ of self-driving tech leader Wayve, the expert panel included Sarah Gates, Director of Public Policy at Wayve, Sarah Thomson, Public Affairs Manager at insurer AXA UK, and Brian Wong, partner and specialist in transport at law firm Burges Salmon.

Wayve self-driving testing in London
Wayve self-driving testing in London

Pleasingly, media in attendance included representatives from not only the usual automotive, fleet and insurance titles, but also national press. Such wider engagement can only help in terms of educating the public, with the unfortunate side-effect of reducing the gaiety resulting from hyperbolic headlines.

Self-driving explainer

Following a basic explainer on how the AV Bill will create a new safety and liability framework for the commercial deployment of self-driving vehicles, they ran through essential terminology including Authorised Self-Driving Entity (ASDE), Operational Design Domain (ODD), User-In-Charge (UiC), No-User-in-Charge (NUiC) and the SAE Levels.

The two statistics that seemed to capture most attention were:

  • In 2022, road traffic accidents cost the UK economy £43bn, of which £2.3bn was a direct cost to the NHS in medical treatment and ambulance services.
  • The DfT estimates that 85% of road traffic accidents are caused by human error incl. reckless behaviour, disobeying traffic laws, and driver impairment/distraction.

Self-driving discussion

Addressing the concern that drivers are actively resisting assisted driving solutions, AXA has published new research confirming that “41% of drivers are switching off vital safety features because they find them annoying”. This, of course, is not self-driving. As we’ve covered before, it is why some experts believe it would be safer to move straight to Level4.

Andy Keane, AXA UK Technical Head of Commercial Motor, said: “The Bill creates new government entities that will assume liability for regulating automated vehicles. Drivers will have immunity from criminal liability for how a vehicle drives while automated vehicle features are engaged.

“However, the fundamental principle of insurance for vehicles will remain unchanged. Every vehicle on our roads will still need to be insured by either the owner/registered keeper or the NUIC operator, such as someone running a fleet of self-driving vehicles. 

“As this technology evolves, we expect a standard motor insurance policy to form the basis of insurance for self-driving vehicles, with adaptations made to accommodate the new technology.”

Further points of discussion included the AV legislation serving as a blueprint for the sector-specific regulation of AI-based technologies, the role of self-driving in cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the opportunity for the UK to provide global leadership on AV regulatory frameworks.

For further details on the economic, environmental and safety benefits, please see the recent Self-Driving Vehicles APPG report

Belfast-based self-driving cybersecurity specialist Angoka has developed an award-winning hardware solution.

Angoka Wins 2023 Trust Award For Self-driving Cybersecurity

Connected car cybersecurity has been one of the hottest automotive topics for a decade now, with increasingly frequent and sophisticated attacks met by ever more advanced defences – and it is pivotal to trust in self-driving too.

The issue went mainstream in 2015 when tech website Wired released footage of hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek remotely seizing control of a Jeep containing journalist Andy Greenberg. “Seriously, it’s f*cking dangerous,” he protested as they shut off the engine while he was driving at 70mph.

Although the number of connected cars was still relatively small, the industry was worried. In 2018, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) found that 84% of automotive professionals had concerns that cybersecurity was failing to keep pace with evolving technologies.

The International Organization for Standardization rules on vehicle cybersecurity engineering were still under development, and the ‘prevention, detection and mitigation’ mantra was getting a lot of attention.

Increasing cyber threats

Fast forward to 2023 and the challenge has escalated. According to data analytics provider Upstream, the number of automotive and smart mobility app-related incidents increased by a staggering 380% in 2022, with ‘black-hat actors’ – the bad guys – behind 63% of them.

The top three attack vectors were: telematics and application servers (35% of all attacks); remote keyless entry systems (18%); and electronic control units (14%). The main threats, therefore, are safety compromise and theft, either of the car itself or, more likely, data.

Statista predicts that the global connected car market will be worth US$121bn by 2025, by which time there will be over 400m connected cars worldwide, up from 237m in 2021.

From a UK perspective, this represents a huge commercial opportunity. Several of our universities consistently rank among the top 10 in the world for cybersecurity courses, sparking a plethora of exciting start-ups.

A leading light amongst them is Belfast-based Angoka, with its hardware solution to what is generally considered a software problem. In layman’s terms, it creates unique identities to enable trusted data exchange. Established in 2019, it graduated from the National Cyber Security Centre’s prestigious Accelerator programme, and now employs 45 people.

Self-driving expert: Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka
Self-driving expert: Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka

Richard Barrington, Director of Smart Cities & Land Mobility at Angoka, said: “My first car was an Austin A35. I’m not sure I locked it much and the term cyber didn’t exist. Today, my plug-in hybrid tells me when it needs servicing, it’s always locked, and the risk of a software fault disabling the vehicle has increased exponentially.

“Level4 automation is around the corner and billions are being spent by companies aiming to be part of the value chain. Some are spinouts from academia, others have been created within the exascale computing companies, and more within the automotive sector itself.

“While significant investment has gone into safety cases, nowhere near enough has been invested in understanding and protecting against the risks associated with cyberattack.

“The digitisation of the vehicle, drive-by-wire, electronic control systems, and the systems that manage transport at scale are all vulnerable, as are over-the-air (OTA) updates and even the EV charging infrastructure.

“Numerous attacks have taken place, or been demonstrated, setting alarm bells ringing throughout the industry. So much so that standards are being mandated, with companies trying to retrofit what should have been built-in from the start.

“One approach is a fortress mentality – encrypt everything, regardless of need. But this doesn’t work in the complex world of connected and automated mobility (CAM). There are too many cracks for bad actors to gain entry.

“With the hundreds of devices that make up a modern vehicle – sensors, actuators, controllers, infotainment – coupled with the range of connectivity options needed to transmit, receive and share data, a new model is needed.

“Our solution is built from the ground up, secure by design. It starts at an electronic component or subsystem level, so that each device has an immutable identity. It can then safely exchange data with other trusted devices, with encryption applied when needed. It gives us a real opportunity to get ahead of the hackers.”

Self-driving trust award

They call it safeguarding critical machine-to-machine communications, and it could be a gamechanger, hence Angoka’s victory at the recent Self-driving Industry Awards.

Angoka co-founder Daniela Menzky wins at the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023
Angoka co-founder Daniela Menzky wins at the Self-driving Industry Awards 2023

The #sdia23 judges said: “In the Trust category, we were looking for examples of exceptional service promoting public acceptance. This was the most challenging category to judge, with strong claims by an array of very different entrants. In the end, we decided that the ultimate facilitator of trust is effective cyber-security.

“We were delighted, therefore, to present our inaugural Self-driving Industry Trust Award to Angoka. Their hardware-based approach to assuring machine-to-machine communications starts at an electronic component or subsystem level. Giving each device a unique digital fingerprint enables it to safely exchange data with other trusted devices, making life much more difficult for hackers.”

Please note: a version of this article was first published in the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

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 venson.com

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

COMING SOON… SELF-DRIVING INDUSTRY AWARDS 2024 …

WATCH THIS SPACE!

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 Carsofthefuture.co.uk, 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).

Carsofthefuture.co.uk 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