On Tuesday 20 October 2020, Zenzic unveiled the latest (second) version of its UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030.
Bringing together government, industry and academia, Zenzic is tasked with establishing the UK as a world leader in self-driving.
Aside from the headline news that Cars of the Future was recognised as an official CAM Creator (sorry, had to get that in), there were notable developments in relation to regulation, safety and public perception.
During a virtual launch event (due to the ongoing Covid plague), Daniel Ruiz, CEO of Zenzic, outlined the “phenomenal progress” made in the 12 months since the launch of the first Roadmap. For instance, the fact that the first self-driving vehicle testing safety standards milestone is on track to be reached by end of this year.
He also highlighted the increased support for local governments on connected vehicles and emphasised the “need to continue to invest”.
Ruiz then handed over to Mark Cracknell, head of technology at Zenzic and architect of the Roadmap, who praised the UK’s collaborative approach over that of other countries where tech companies push the agenda.
“The Roadmap details the route to delivering the vision,” he said. “We are only one year into a 10 year plan and we are in a great position, with activity and progress reflected in the real world.”
Cracknell then joined a panel discussion, moderated by Alex Kreetzer of Auto Futures, with Imogen Pierce, head of experience strategy at Arrival (formerly of Jaguar), and Dr Richard Fairchild, operations director at Aurrigo. Given the participants, it understandably focussed on mobility as a service (MAAS) and first and last mile transport solutions.
It was unfortunate that this event coincided with Bauer’s Virtual Smart Transport Conference. Surely the driverless highway is not yet so congested that organisations have to tread on each other’s toes?
Anyway, if you’d like to explore the new Roadmap, you are very welcome to do so here.
In an explosive exclusive interview with Cars of the Future, transport expert Christian Wolmar presents a devastating critique of the self-driving dream.
As an arch critic of the UK’s autonomous vehicle plans, transport commentator Christian Wolmar sums up his views in the title of his book, Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere.
“The problems are almost too great to list, but my primary concerns are two-fold: technological and environmental,” he says. “There are huge worries about rushing into it, cutting corners which might result in accidents and deaths, as they already have.
“Then there’s a bigger issue: what is the positive outcome? I just don’t see it. People are not asking for it, it doesn’t solve problems such as congestion or pollution, yet huge amounts of money are going into it with almost no return.
“The technology can be hacked. There’s the risk of deskilling drivers with the adoption of more automated driving aids, then expecting them to take over in the event of an emergency. The more you look at the driverless vision, the more dystopian it appears.”
At this point, Wolmar casually mentions a host of other potential pitfalls concerning legality, privacy, practicality. You get the picture. He’s not a fan. Following this initial brutal attack on the foundation stones of the self-driving dream, he quickly covers off some popular retorts.
“The argument goes that driverless cars will help the blind and others who can’t drive, but logically this must mean more cars on the road and therefore more congestion,” he says. “The response is “ah, no, because there will be shared use”, but there’s no evidence that people want that. It isn’t a realistic concept, but even if we get there it will not be a good place.”
So why are governments, vehicle manufacturers and tech companies so obsessed with it? “The proponents of driverless have managed to create a climate in which the public and politicians think it is inevitable, but it isn’t,” he says.
“After 12 years of testing robotaxis in sunny climates on nice wide geofenced highways you still have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to get in one! The developers are driven by fear that someone else will make the technology work and become the market leader, but everything points to the fact that this is a technological dead end. Like Concorde, lots of great ideas have floundered.”
Finally, Wolmar relents briefly from his devastating critique. “There may be some limited uses such as airport transit,” he admits. “It’s a bit like the moon landing, some great technologies will come out of it. Indeed, if you speak to people at trade shows, a lot of them are very skeptical about driverless ever becoming a dominant technology. They already have successful businesses supplying cameras or software or lidar, and that’s where their interest lies.
“Outside of the industry, many think driverless cars are already available to buy. It is pure hype. They don’t exist. Headlines in the media claim driverless cars can do this or that, and then in paragraph five it says there’s a safety driver.
“You saw it with covid and the supposed benefits of driverless delivery. If anything, the impact of the pandemic on driverless was to completely undermine the shared use argument, which is vital to the business case. Coronavirus, and whatever comes after it, is as much a problem for shared use as it is for public transport.”
So, what’s Wolmar’s preferred solution? “The approach must be different for each town or city, but urban areas are not suitable for the unregulated use of private cars,” he says. “You have to recognise that road space is a limited asset, to do otherwise is bad economics. This is not a war on the motorist. There will be cars of the future, but cars in their proper place, particularly rural areas.”
For more detailed analysis (and scathing criticism), the second edition of Wolmar’s book “Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere” is out now via London Publishing Partnership priced at £9.99. Alternatively, email email@example.com or visit www.christianwolmar.co.uk.
Opening of the Smart Mobility Living Lab in London and the Darwin SatCom Lab in Oxfordshire
Last week saw the UK expand its driverless vehicle testing infrastructure with the opening of two impressive new facilities: the Smart Mobility Living Lab in London and the Darwin SatCom Lab in Oxfordshire.
On 30 September, Zenzic officially opened its Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL) with an online event featuring Paul Campion, CEO of TRL, and virtual ribbon-cutting by Danny Thorpe, leader of the council in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
Described as the place to go for real-world connected and automated vehicles (CAV) and connected and automated mobility (CAM) testing, the SMLL will use public and private roads in London “to develop and validate new mobility and transport technologies in a real-world connected environment”.
The following day, O2 opened its new commercial 5G and satellite communications lab at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
Part of Project Darwin, a four-year programme supported by O2 and the European Space Agency, it will “explore and trial next-gen connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles”.
Derek McManus, chief operating officer at O2, said: “We’re delighted to announce that the Darwin SatCom Lab is now open for business. It’s the next step in getting autonomous vehicles on the road and making the UK’s transport network greener.”
Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, added: “I am incredibly excited that O2’s first of its kind driverless car lab will enable our most innovative businesses to test these technologies and bring us another step closer to putting self-driving vehicles safely on our roads.”
Typical, you wait months for a significant development and two come along at once.
In a fascinating new article, published on 18 September 2020, NASA explained how its laser-based lunar landing technology could be adopted by self-driving cars.
Facing many of the same navigational and hazard avoidance challenges, NASA brought sensors, cameras, algorithms and high-performance computers together under the Safe and Precise Landing Integrated Capabilities Evolution (SPLICE) project.
Considering Mars is approximately 34 million miles from earth, and NASA successfully landed the Curiosity rover within a 12×4 mile target area, autonomous vehicle developers would be wise to pay attention.
What’s more, NASA intends to be even more precise in future, with a new variation called Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL), which detects the movement and velocity of distant objects, as well as a spacecraft’s own motion relative to the ground.
Steve Sandford, former director at NASA’s Langley Research Center and now Chief Technology Officer at Psionic, said: “Doppler lidar’s high resolution can distinguish between objects that are only several inches apart and even at a distance of several hundred feet.” Potentially perfect for detecting, for instance, a pedestrian crossing a road.
Expressing a highly contentious view, Jonathan Webber, Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University, has suggested that human drivers should be banned once driverless cars are up to speed.
Writing in The Conversation, he said: “Robot drivers won’t break the speed limit, jump the lights, or park where they shouldn’t. They won’t drive under the influence of drink or drugs. They’ll never get tired or behave aggressively. They won’t be distracted by changing the music or sending a text, and they’ll never be trying to impress their mates.
“Many people enjoy driving. But many people enjoy smoking too, and this is banned in public places. There could be designated safe spaces for drivers to indulge their hobby without risk to other people.”
It is a convincing argument. He even acknowledges the importance of access, saying: “There is a strong case that essential transport infrastructure should be publicly owned. And if private cars are not an option, perhaps the cost of using autonomous taxis should be proportionate to ability to pay.
“But regardless of how we resolve these practical issues, it seems that the enormous benefits of safe, driverless taxis should lead us to remove any other kind of car from our roads.”
This strong stance puts him on a collision course with Alex Roy, the New York-based founder of the Human Driving Association (HDA).
An arch critic of fatuous and excessive claims made by self-driving proponents, eyebrows were raised when Roy wrote an article for The Drive explaining why he had accepted a position with driverless tech company Argo AI.
“I want what any sane person should want. I want tomorrow, today. I want it to be reliable. I want technology that enhances my life rather than restricts it,” he said.
“I want to own a car with a self-driving button, but I still want a steering wheel, and I want to set the first autonomous Cannonball Run record, and I want my daughter to have a driver’s license.”
To achieve this, the HDA is calling for a constitutional amendment on the right to drive your own vehicle.
As so often with the embryonic driverless car industry, there are more questions than answers: Are the two really so far apart? Do we need something like the HDA on this side of the pond?
A new 6km testing facility for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) is being constructed at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome and Proving Ground in Leicestershire.
The development, to be known as the Cavway, is expected to cost £8.4m, including £4m of government funding.
It will feature an array of highways designed by consortium partner Applus+ IDIADA,
including smart motorways, rural B roads, urban A roads and all kinds of
Dave Walton, managing director of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, said “The site at Bruntingthorpe and the experience of the Bruntingthorpe team, together with IDIADA’s experience in designing and operating proving grounds, will allow us to develop a world class CAV facility which will attract intelligent vehicle development activities to the UK.”
The project is backed by Zenzic, previously Meridian Mobility, a joint government and industry initiative tasked with accelerating connected and driverless vehicle technologies in the UK.
The groundbreaking UK Autodrive project has published its
final report, reflecting on some impressive achievements and highlighting urgent challenges.
Back in December 2014, UK Autodrive was one of three
successful consortia selected from Innovate UK’s Introducing Driverless Cars To
UK Roads competition. On launch, in October 2015, it was the UK’s largest ever trial of
connected and self-driving vehicles.
rollcall of big names involved with the project included planning consultants
Arup, Milton Keynes and Coventry City councils, vehicle manufacturers Jaguar
Land Rover, Ford and Tata, automotive technology specialist RDM, transport
systems specialist Horiba-Mira, and Oxford and Cambridge universities.
main elements were: 1) The Cars
programme, focused on the development and trialling of connected and autonomous
passenger cars; 2) The Pods programme, focused on the development and trialling
of a new form of last-mile electric-powered pod vehicle; and 3) The Cities
programme, aimed at helping cities to understand how they could best facilitate
and benefit from automated transport systems.
and RDM all praised it for significantly advancing their autonomous capabilities,
with Emergency Vehicle Warning and Collaborative Parking judged to have been
particularly effective. The Electronic Emergency Brake Light feature was also considered
to have strong potential.
importantly, the report highlighted five major challenges:
The levels of integration with
road infrastructure, including traffic signals
Issues related to time
synchronisation between system components
Extra care to be taken during
testing in areas where pedestrians cross
The need to correct for road
surface imperfections compared to 2D maps
The current imprecision of GPS for
Tim Armitage, project director at Arup, said: “The success of the project was primarily down to the vast and varied expertise of the UK Autodrive consortium partners, and to the collaborative manner in which we worked from day one.”
controversial move, the European Commission (EC) has backed Wi-Fi-based ITS-G5 over its 5G-based rival, C-V2X, in the race to become the
standard for internet
clincher was apparently that Wi-Fi is already widely available, but many see it
as a victory for ITS-G5 supporters Volkswagen, Renault and NXP, who claim it is
better for time-critical communications such as crash avoidance.
In the opposite corner, big hitters like Ford, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom and Huawei back C-V2X, arguing that it can support a wider range of applications.
According to Techradar, Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA (the trade association for mobile network operators), wrote to the European Parliament criticising Wi-Fi as old technology.
Meanwhile, Reuters quoted Lise Fuhr, director general of telecoms lobbying group ETNO, as saying: “Europe cannot mandate only one technology for connected driving. Member states can now correct this by bringing 4G and 5G back into the picture: global competitiveness and safety are at stake.”
The EC legislation
still requires approval in the European Council, so the victory for Wi-Fi isn’t
This is a major worry, and something of a disappointment, given it is nearly four years since the notorious Wired video in which hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek remotely seized control of a Jeep Cherokee containing journalist Andy Greenberg:
“Seriously, it’s fucking dangerous,” he protested as they killed the engine while he was driving on a US highway.
These days, of course, there are millions more internet enabled ‘connected cars’ potentially susceptible to such attacks.
Despite this, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rules on cybersecurity engineering in relation to road vehicles are still “under development”.
Last year, the Cyber Security Body Of Knowledge (CyBOK) proposed a three-stage approach to tackling the issue: 1) Prevention; 2) Detection; and 3) Mitigation.
However, it warned: “Even with good techniques to prevent introduction of vulnerabilities in new code, or to detect vulnerabilities in existing code, there is bound to be a substantial amount of legacy code with vulnerabilities in active use for the foreseeable future.”
Just this month, Jaguar Land Rover suggested that fully driverless cars might need a billion lines of code, meaning a lot of scope for loopholes.
The good news is there’s a massive profit incentive for anyone coming up with a robust solution, so tech giants, vehicle manufacturers and start-ups are all on the case.
For example, the Innovate UK-funded 5StarS project brings together experts from Horiba Mira, Ricardo, Roke, Axillium and Thatcham.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at
Thatcham, said: “The 5StarS consortium aims to introduce a new system of star
ratings for the security of autonomous cars against cyber-attacks, like Euro
NCAP’s ratings for the crash safety of cars.”
Bromley and Croydon, FiveAI is operating five self-driving cars day and night
with safety drivers at the wheel.
is to roll-out an autonomous car-sharing service, with passenger trials scheduled
to begin next year.
and chief executive, Stan Boland, said: “Safety and trusted partnerships are
crucial to everything we do. We’ll continue to keep residents informed along
the way, working closely with the London Boroughs and Transport for London.”
The company was previously part a project known as
StreetWise – a consortium awarded more than £12m by the Government to develop autonomous
In Cambridge, Wayve is developing a system which relies on cameras, a
sat-nav and machine learning, rather than hand-coded rules.
This video shows a Wayve vehicle with a backup driver navigating complex urban streets it has never encountered before:
The company’s co-founder and chief technology officer,
Alex Kendall, said: “We’ve built a system which can drive like a human, using
only cameras and a sat-nav. This is only possible with end-to-end machine
learning. With each piece of data we’re able to train our system to get better
This appears to fly in the face of the majority view that radar and lidar are vital connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies. Time will tell.
Looking ahead, Project Synergy is planning to run three autonomous, electric Westfield sports cars on public roads between Stockport Railway Station and Manchester Airport from January 2020.
Clare Cornes, intelligent mobility manager at Westfield, said: “Safety is paramount on this project.”