Transport Select Committee to scrutinise the development and deployment of self-driving vehicles on UK roads.

August 22 deadline for evidence to new Transport Select Committee inquiry into self-driving vehicles

On 27 June, the Transport Select Committee announced a new inquiry into self-driving vehicles and issued a Call for Evidence.

Chaired by Huw Merriman MP, with a remit to hold Transport Ministers to account and to investigate matters of public concern, the influential cross-party group will scrutinise the development and deployment of self-driving road vehicles.

Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman MP to scrutinise self-driving
Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman MP to scrutinise self-driving

It follows confirmation that the Transport Bill announced in the recent Queen’s Speech will introduce comprehensive legislation for self-driving vehicles in the UK.

Other heavyweight issues currently before the Transport Select Committee include the integrated rail plan, the national bus strategy and road pricing.

Call for evidence on self-driving

The Call for Evidence on self-driving vehicles reads: “We are particularly interested in receiving written evidence that addresses: 

  • Likely uses, including private cars, public transport and commercial vehicles;
  • Progress of research and trials in the UK and abroad;
  • Potential implications for infrastructure, both physical and digital;
  • The regulatory framework, including legal status and approval and authorisation processes;
  • Safety and perceptions of safety, including the relationship with other road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and conventionally driven vehicles;
  • The role of Government and other responsible bodies, such as National Highways and local authorities; and potential effects on patterns of car ownership, vehicle taxation and decarbonisation in the car market.”

The deadline for evidence is Monday 22 August 2022.

On 9 June 2022, Westfield Sports Cars and its self-driving arm, Westfield Autonomous Vehicles, went into administration

Self-driving setback as Westfield Autonomous Vehicles falls into administration

In sad news for British motorsport and self-driving fans, on 9 June it emerged that Westfield Sports Cars and its subsidiary Westfield Autonomous Vehicles had both gone into administration.

Founded in 1983 and based in Kingswinford, near Birmingham, Westfield Sports Cars specialised in Lotus Seven inspired kit cars and was often compared to Caterham.

Westfield sports car
Westfield sports car

Westfield self-driving

Its diversification into self-driving was widely considered an astute move and it gained many plaudits for its involvement in the landmark GATEway Project in London,

In my 2018 article Autonomous Now, which led to the launch of Cars of the Future, I noted: “GATEway is entering its final phase, which will see a fleet of driverless pods providing a shuttle service around a 3.4km route on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Westfield self-driving pod in Greenwich 2018
Westfield self-driving pod in Greenwich 2018

“In a world first, members of the public are invited to take part in the research, by riding in or engaging with the pods and sharing their opinions.”

Supported by Innovate UK, Westfield went on to run a live commercial trial at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. The future seemed bright.

Just prior to the Queen’s Speech, on 10 May, Westfield Technology Group CEO Julian Turner was one of the 17 major UK business representatives calling for the Government to announce primary legislation for automated vehicles (AVs).

A slightly bizarre last hurrah – if indeed this is the end – came a few weeks ago when the Westfield Pod featured on Grace’s Amazing Machines on BBC children’s channel CBeebies.

Westfield self-driving pod on CBeebies Grace's Amazing Machines
Westfield self-driving pod on CBeebies Grace’s Amazing Machines

For the record, presenter Grace Webb preferred it to the other two contenders – an electric bus and a ride-on lawnmower.

Distressed business listing service, Business Sale, reported that: “In its accounts for the year ending December 31 2021, Westfield Sports Cars reported fixed assets of close to £750,000 and current assets of slightly over £4 million. Less liabilities, the company’s net assets amounted to £1.179 million.

“Westfield Autonomous Vehicles, meanwhile, reported total assets of £1.4 million in its most recent accounts, but ended 2021 with net liabilities of close to £316,000.

“Despite the company’s demise, the assets set to be sold could represent a major opportunity for the right buyer, given their strong offering in the emerging self-driving electric vehicles sector and the niche kit car market.”

Autocar added: “Westfield had built up a solid reputation for creating interesting sports cars majoring on handling and horsepower rather than refinement.

“CEO Julian Turner also planned to push the autonomous pod side of the business, with the aim of turning Westfield into “the Boeing or Airbus of the automotive world”, selling these vehicles to fleet operators.

“Westfield Autonomous Vehicles created the Heathrow Pods that connect the Terminal 5 business parking to the main building and claims to have delivered “more fully autonomous vehicles than anyone else in the UK”.”

Self-driving assets

Mark Bowen of MB Insolvency was appointed as administrator on 9 June, but parent companies Westfield Technology Group and Potenza Enterprises don’t appear to be included.

Mark Bowen told the local media there had already been an “encouraging level of interest shown in the company’s remaining assets” and that MB Insolvency were “liaising with a number of parties at the moment to see if anybody is interested in the assets and possibly trying to resurrect something here.”

On 14 June, the counter on the Westfield Autonomous Vehicles website clocked a not insubstantial “9,983,709 Autonomous Kilometres” and “6,015,384 Passengers Driven”, and still rising.

Surely that should be of interest to someone.

New reports predict self-driving will massively boost the global LiDAR market, with Aeva’s Aeries 4D LiDAR highlighted.

Self-driving to super charge global LiDAR market to US$3bn+ within 5 years

Two new reports have highlighted self-driving as one of the main factors predicted to boost the global LiDAR market to at least US$3.4 billion a year by 2026.

According to Polaris Market Research, the global automotive LiDAR market is anticipated to reach US$4.14bn by 2026, increasing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 35%.

LiDAR for self-driving

The report summary noted: “The Automotive LiDAR market growth is attributed to the increasing demand of autonomous vehicles for active safety and self-driving. As advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles are expected to witness growth at significant rates, it is expected to have a direct positive impact on the growth in the Automotive LiDAR market.

“These automated vehicles provide opportunities for a large number of firms to access a range of untapped facts, creating new revenue-generating opportunities, which will boost the market growth.

“The solid-state/flash LiDAR market is expected to grow at a very high pace during the forecast period. Solid state sensor being low-cost, robust, as well as compact in size makes it ideal for potential large-scale production of level 3 and level 4 cars in coming years. Further, mechanical sensors and other sensors also capture decent market share.”

Polaris highlight leading industry players including Scans, Velodyne LIDAR, Quanergy Systems, LeddarTech, First Sensor, Novariant, Delphi, Continental, Robert Bosch and Denso.

A separate report, by Markets And Markets, largely concurs with these findings, projecting that the LiDAR market will grow at a CAGR of 21.6% from 2021 to 2026 to reach US$3.4 billion by 2026.

LiDAR for UAVs

However, it focuses more on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – drones – and 4D LiDAR specifically.

“The rising adoption of LiDAR systems in UAVs, increasing adoption of LiDAR in engineering and construction applications, use of LiDAR in geographical information systems (GIS) applications, the emergence of 4D LiDAR, and easing of regulations related to the use of commercial drones in different applications are among the factors driving the growth of the LiDAR market,” it says.

“However, safety threats related to UAVs and autonomous cars and the easy availability of low-cost and lightweight photogrammetry systems are restraining the growth of the market.

“The market for 4D LiDAR is projected to grow at the highest CAGR from 2021 to 2026. This growth is attributed to the high adoption of 4D LiDAR in applications such as self-driving cars, robots, and other autonomous systems.

“Apart from automobiles, 4D LiDAR has applications in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, entertainment, and AR/VR. Some of the major companies offering 4D LiDAR are Aeva and TetraVue.”

In March, sensing systems developer Aeva announced that its Aeries 4D LiDAR sensors are now supported on the Nvidia Drive autonomous vehicle platform.

As well as measuring distance and plotting the position of objects in x, y and z, Aeva’s 4D-LiDAR plots velocity as a fourth dimension.

Aeva CEO Soroush Salehian on self-driving
Aeva CEO Soroush Salehian on self-driving

Soroush Salehian, Co-Founder and CEO at Aeva (formerly of Apple’s Special Projects Group), said: “Bringing Aeva’s next generation 4D LiDAR to the Nvidia Drive platform is a leap forward for OEMs building the next generation of Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous vehicles.

“We believe Aeva’s sensors deliver superior capabilities that allow for autonomy in a broader operational design domain (ODD), and our unique features like Ultra Resolution surpass the sensing and perception capabilities of legacy sensors to help accelerate the realization of safe autonomous driving.”

Gary Hicok, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Nvidia, added: “Aeva delivers a unique advantage for perception in automated vehicles because it leverages per-point instant velocity information to detect and classify objects with higher confidence across longer ranges.

“With Aeva as part of our Drive ecosystem network, we can provide customers access to this next generation of sensing capabilities for safe autonomous driving.”

You like autonomous and we like self-driving, as US and UK push different descriptors.

A divergence in self-driving terminology: has Tesla’s FSD wrecked general usage in America?

The issue of confusing terminology in the, er, self-driving / driverless / autonomous / automated vehicle industry, has raised its ugly head once again, with the US and UK apparently heading in opposite directions.

An article on the 2025AD website this week, titled “Autonomous driving: Do we need a common language to move forward?”, warned that “unclear terminology limits understanding”. 

The oft-quoted Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has recently updated its “Levels of Driving Automation”, revealing in itself, reflecting a shift towards “Automated” and away from “Autonomous” in some quarters.

SAE levels of driving automation 2022
SAE levels of driving automation 2022

Self-driving in the UK

Then there’s “self-driving”. In the UK, the Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and others have been keen to embrace it in place of “driverless”.

For example, in its “Government paves the way for self-driving vehicles on UK roads” statement in April, and the two mentions in the Queen’s Speech 2022 lobby pack.

You can see the logic. It isn’t generally good practice to brand something by what it’s not, so “self-driving” certainly has the advantage over “driverless” in that respect.

We’re talking headline descriptors here. Let’s not even get into acronyms… like the fact there’s one letter difference between Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Automated Driving Systems (ADS) when confusing the two is so dangerous. Grrr.

Self-driving in Korea

Anyway, back to self-driving. We’re not alone in liking it. For example, this month saw the launch of the epically-named Self-driving Robot Alliance in Korea.

Park Jae-young, official for Korean industrial policy, said: “I hope that the Self-driving Robot Alliance will become a place to drive the growth of the domestic self-driving robot market.”

Argument over then, self-driving it is. Not if the largest economy in the world has anything to do with it!

Autonomous in America

Across the pond, Americans are falling out of love with the term “self-driving” and going back to “autonomous”.

TechCrunch reported last year that Waymo was dropping self-driving. Now, the lobbying group the Self-driving Coalition for Safer Streets (including big hitters like Cruise, Ford and Argo AI) has changed its name to the Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Industry Association.

You have to question Tesla’s part in all this. It’s a shame, given everything Elon Musk has done for electric cars, that so many hyperbolic headlines are caused by its confusingly-named Full Self-Driving (FSD) package.

It simply isn’t self-driving as the rest of the industry understands it, and it risks drivers misunderstanding what their cars are capable of.

As Forbes reported back in 2020, Tesla has already had to rebrand its Autopilot as Autodrive in Germany. Has its Full Self-Driving (FSD) brand wrecked the self-driving name for everyone else?

Define self-driving

Not in the UK apparently. British Standards group, BSi, with its famous kitemarks, recently updated its connected and automated vehicles (CAV) vocabulary, sponsored by the autonomous-leaning CCAV.

Thanks to lead technical author Nick Reed, of Reed Mobility, BSI Flex 1890 v4.0:2022-03 included some notable additions, not least for “self-driving”.

BSi's CAV vocabulary includes "self-driving"
BSi’s CAV vocabulary includes “self-driving”

Referencing other definitions in the document, BSi defined self-driving as: “Full function of the dynamic driving task (2.1.24), performed by the automated driving system (2.1.7) within its operational design domain (2.1.48)”.

By way of justification, the definition was accompanied by two notes: 1) Although this term is deprecated within SAE J3016 (2021), it is included here because this is the term best understood by the public to mean the definition as stated (which is the same as that for automated driving).

And 2): The Law Commission of England and Wales and Scottish Law Commission joint report (2022) extended this definition with the condition that the vehicle is to drive “safely and legally, even if an individual is not monitoring the driving environment, the vehicle or the way that it drives”.

Peter Stoker, Chief Engineer for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at Millbrook, nutshelled the issue last year, telling us: “The key to the future of self-driving is education, education, education – for everyone, the public, vehicle manufacturers, the aftermarket… we have to work on the terminology – autonomous, driverless, CAV, CAM – it’s confusing, even to people who know what they’re talking about.”

With marketing teams in the US pushing “autonomous” and the UK and others pushing “self-driving”, the confusion looks set to continue.

Highway Code changes to move Britain “closer to a self-driving revolution” sparked some stonking new driverless headlines…

Top 5 jaw-dropping self-driving headlines UK press April-May 2022

As part of our mission to encourage more sensible debate about self-driving, it’s important to keep an eye on how the rest of the media covers our industry.

As usual, extra points are available for informed commentary and nuanced safety messages in another exciting edition of… Hyperbolic Headlines!

Since April, when the government set out changes to The Highway Code to move Britain “closer to a self-driving revolution”, there have been some absolute stonkers in the UK press.

Self-driving revolution stories

Here’s our Top 5 from the last few weeks…

At No.5, this, from The Guardian on 20 April, is a good example of the widespread reaction: “Sit back and enjoy a film at the wheel in your driverless car – but don’t use the phone”.

At No 4. Is it helpful or is it scary? From on 11 May: “Driverless cars will need ‘L-plates or flashing lights’ to combat widespread fear and distrust, report finds”.

At No.3. Give this one a second or two. Missing the point in spectacular style, The Express on 30 April, with: “Autonomous learner cars could be a reality – but not for at least 20 years”.

The bar is getting pretty high now.

At No.2. The Telegraph, who have form for self-driving pessimism, were at it again on 2 May: “Driverless cars will be a disappointment, if they ever arrive”.

I know. How can that ever be beaten? Well…

At No.1, step forward Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun on 22 April with: “Driverless cars are pointless – and they have built-in instructions to kill you”.

As we’ve noted before, the self-driving industry has a public perception mountain to climb.

The Institute of the Motor Industry already has a skills solution for ADAS and is looking ahead to full self-driving.

IMI on the right road to next level self-driving skills

In a recent MotorPro podcast, AA President Edmund King predicted that connected and self-driving vehicles will lead to “radical changes” in the UK automotive industry. He’s quite right of course and, as you’d expect, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is ahead of the game.

Steve Scofield FIMI, Head of Business Development at the IMI, commented: “We’re already on the road to full autonomy, starting with the lower levels of automation. For instance, our e-learning skills solution and campaigns around Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Steve Scofield talks self-driving
Steve Scofield, Head of Business Development at the IMI, talks self-driving

“That’s currently the biggest issue for the real-world car parc, whether for accident repair or maintenance and repair. Very soon we’ll be launching new ADAS qualifications, and that’s just the start of our journey.

Self-driving skills

“From a skills perspective, the IMI is downstream of the research and testing being conducted by groups like the Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). But we’re continually horizon-scanning and engaging with key stakeholders – that’s all part of being future-proof.

“We have strong partnerships with organisations like Thatcham and BSI to make sure we can see what’s coming, to build-in industry requirements, to drive continuing professional development (CPD), and to ensure there’s recognition of accredited training.”

A good example is IMI TechSafe, which identifies a member’s professionalism and safe working in the field of electric vehicles (EVs) and other safety-critical systems, including autonomous and driver assistance systems.

Self-driving standards

The repair of ADAS-equipped vehicles is covered by British Standard BS10125, formerly known as PAS 125, and most insurance companies will only give work to businesses that meet the standard.

As an indicator of how the UK will embrace the higher levels of automation – vehicles that can get from A to B with minimal human interaction – it is interesting to note the work of BSI’s connected and automated vehicles (CAV) standards programme, sponsored by the CCAV in conjunction with Innovate UK and Zenzic.

PAS stands for Publicly Available Specification, and BSI is working on three new ones: PAS 1880 on guidelines for developing and assessing control systems for automated vehicles; PAS 1881 on assuring safety for autonomous vehicle trials and testing; and PAS 1882 on data collection and management for automated vehicle trials for the purpose of incident investigation. According to BSI, around 30% of PASs go on to form the basis of international standards.

Steve Scofield continued: Our IMI industry Sector Advisory Group, which includes around 75 organisations, will be looking closely at autonomous. It’s really important for us to sow the seeds early, to embed qualifications around autonomous into our training centres so our membership is ready for the changing environment.

“Bear in mind that the Law Commission is only just putting together the regulatory framework for self-driving in the UK. We’re not far down the road with autonomous yet, we’re mainly talking level one and two driver assistance, but you can see the world is shifting towards ACES – Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared.

Self-driving talent

“It’s exciting for talent acquisition because it should help us to attract the next generation. Young people are very interested in low carbon and the green agenda. They also like the idea of working in a dynamic, rapidly evolving sector.

“Just this week, [IMI chief executive] Steve Nash and I were at a John Deere training academy seeing how they use GPS to position their vehicles within a centimetre or two. For road vehicles there’s the whole connectivity side, how these vehicles will talk to the infrastructure, the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle owner and other vehicles.

“I don’t have all of the answers at this stage, I can just see bits of it as we’re researching. What’s very clear is that the motor industry will need a lot more talent in software, as well as the usual vehicle systems.”

In terms of bottom line benefits, IMI analysis of salary data for 2020 showed an earning premium of more than 10% for EV qualified technicians. That’s about £3,700 per annum extra in your pay packet for specialising in cutting-edge tech.

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

CAVForth self-driving bus begins landmark two-week road trial in Scotland

UK self-driving success as CAVForth bus project conducts first public road test

A full-size autonomous bus took to public roads for the first time in the UK this week, as CAVForth began a landmark two-week trial in Scotland.

Cars of the Future readers will recognise the name as, almost a year ago to the day, we published a long-read interview with Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, one of the partners in the project, along with Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis and Transport Scotland.

Self-driving expert and CEO of Fusion Processing, Jim Hutchinson
Self-driving expert and CEO of Fusion Processing, Jim Hutchinson

He explained then how Fusion was involved in the Gateway project in London, and how that led to CAVForth. “The hope is that it will go from a pilot service to a full service,” he said. “It’s being registered as a new route, providing a service that wasn’t previously there, and Stagecoach anticipate around 10,000 journeys a week.

“The route includes a mix of road environments – motorway, bus lanes, roundabouts, signalled interchanges – so from our point of view it makes for a great demonstration of capability. There’s the technology side, which Fusion is focussed on, but there’s also key research around public acceptance.

“It will be a very significant achievement to demonstrate a Level 4 capability on that class of vehicle – a big thing for the UK which will be noticed around the world.”

UK self-driving first

Well, 12 months on, CAVForth is very much on schedule. Level 4 automation, according to the SAE International standard, means no human is driving and, unlike Level 3, won’t be required to take over. Make no mistake, this is a big deal.

Around 500 members of the public have provided feedback on what would make them feel “comfortable and confident in travelling”. As a result, a decision has been made to keep a member of staff on board.

The test phase will run for two weeks in preparation for the launch of the CAVForth pilot this summer. That’s when things will get really exciting, with passengers.

Stagecoach plans to recruit 20 specially trained ‘Autonomous Bus Professionals’ from across its East Scotland business. When the service goes live, these experienced bus drivers will monitor the autonomous system alongside a ‘Captain’, who will move around the bus answering any questions passengers may have about the service.

Part-funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), five single-decker autonomous buses will operate at SAE Level 4 over the Forth Road Bridge, between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Train and Tram Interchange.

The buses will be fitted with Fusion Processing’s CAVstar sensor and control technology, enabling them to run on pre-selected roads without the safety driver having to intervene.

A nugget to note here, as Hutchinson explained to us last year: “We developed the CAVstar platform as a scalable solution – a drive system we could put into pretty much any vehicle, from small cars up to HGV.” Think about the potential.

The CAVForth buses will carry up to 36 passengers over a 14-mile route and, to support the project, Transport Scotland recently opened a section of Actively Managed Hard Shoulder for all buses on the M8 eastbound.

CAVForth self-driving bus with Fusion Processing tech and branding
CAVForth self-driving bus with Fusion Processing tech and branding

Official comments

Sam Greer, Regional Director for Stagecoach in Scotland, said: “This is a hugely exciting project for Scotland and we are pleased to be starting live testing on roads. This is a major step forward in our journey to launch the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service and will provide easy access to a brand-new bus route in the heart of East Scotland.”

Chris Gall, Group Engineering Director at busmaker Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), said: “CAVForth helps us to explore new technologies that will make buses even safer and more efficient. As we move towards passenger services later in the year, the project will be a landmark demonstration of future technologies in transport.”

Jim Hutchinson added: “We are delighted to be leading the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle programme. CAVForth will provide a useful service to local people as well as being a great demonstration of Fusion’s automated vehicle technology.

“On road testing is an exciting milestone in the development of autonomous commercial vehicles and we look forward to welcoming passengers onboard in a few months’ time.”

Interest in self-driving

As an indicator of growing interest in the project, satirical site Newsthump ran a story on it this week, under the headline “UK’s first self-driving bus passes ‘ignore passengers running to bus stop’ test”.

It may be mainstream now but, remember, you heard it here first.

Audi’s Grandsphere concept car features a retractable steering wheel for hands-off mode.

How to tell if a car is truly driverless: Has it got a steering wheel?

One of the biggest barriers to the successful introduction of driverless cars is confusion over what constitutes true self-driving.

In America, the controversial autonomous vehicle expert, Alex Roy, has suggested a self-driving litmus test called Roy’s Razor. “Can you get in, pick a destination and safely go to sleep?” he asks. “If yes, it’s self-driving. If no, it’s not.”

While this has some merit, the key word “safely” gets somewhat lost. The internet is awash with less than sensible people climbing out of the driver’s seat with their Tesla in Autopilot.

So, here’s an idea to head off such recklessness… the best way to tell if a car is truly self-driving is to ask this simple question: Has it got a steering wheel?

Audi has apparently been down this road in the thinking behind its new Grandsphere concept car. When in “hands-off” mode, the steering wheel folds neatly away.

Audi Grandsphere concept car fold away steering wheel
Audi Grandsphere concept car with fold away steering wheel

That certainly removes any doubt as to whether the driver is responsible for driving or just a user in charge, to use The Law Commission of England and Wales’ new lingo.

“We will be ready for Level 4 driving in the second half of this decade,” said Josef Schloßmacher, Audi’s spokesperson for concept cars.

“That’s an important timeframe for us and we will interact with authorities in the different continents and countries in all important markets on the homologation of this new technology.”

While somewhat open to the accusation of a fudge – if it is truly self-driving, why do you need a steering wheel at all? – this looks like progress.

Driverless Toyota e-Palette bus hits blind Japanese judo star

Injury setback for self-driving at Tokyo Paralympics

A golden PR opportunity for driverless cars backfired badly this week when a Toyota self-driving e-Palette shuttle bus hit a visually impaired athlete at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

It had all been going so well. A fleet of eye-catching autonomous electric vehicles successfully ferrying competitors and officials around the Olympic village was a major triumph for the self-driving industry, and Toyota in particular.

But this Olympic fairy tale received a nasty reality check when a slow-moving e-Palette collided with Japanese judo veteran Aramitsu Kitazono, apparently ending his medal hopes.

Kitazono had been due to face Ukraine’s Dmytro Solovey the following day, but didn’t take to the mat. Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda swiftly apologised, but the damage was done.

We first covered the e-Palette last year in our interview with Yosuke Ushigome, Director at Takram, who worked on Toyota’s future car concepts.

Somewhat ironically now, given the accident involved a blind man, our headline endorsed “flickering lights to replace eye contact in facilitating trust”. Perhaps audible warnings are also warranted.

Tokyo Paralympics Toyota e-Palette
Tokyo Paralympics Toyota e-Palette

“Throughout the development process, athletes, especially Paralympians, helped us understand how the e-Palette could be adapted and upgraded to better meet their needs for simple, convenient and comfortable mobility,” said Takahiro Muta, the project’s development leader, in 2019.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Last December, the idea of these autonomous vehicles playing a practical role at this showcase sporting event was enticing, to say the least – some questioned whether it would even be possible.

Now we are left with Toyoda’s grim assessment of the incident. “It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads,” he said.

Use of the e-Palette fleet was suspended for several days but has now resumed.

PAVE is on a mission to inform the US public about self-driving vehicles.

Letters from America: Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE)

There are many lessons America can teach us Brits about the safe introduction of driverless cars, and the vital work of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) is a prime example.

The US is well ahead of the UK in terms of on-road testing and there have been crashes. These high-profile incidents have dented consumer confidence and calls for greater oversight have now been met.

On 29 June 2021, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that the manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), or higher SAE level automated driving systems, must report crashes.

Against this background, PAVE has a mission “To inform the public about automated vehicles and their potential so everyone can fully participate in shaping the future of transportation”.

Tara Andringa
Tara Andringa, Executive Director of PAVE

Executive Director of PAVE, Tara Andringa, explains: “PAVE was born at CES in Las Vegas in 2019 and unites industry, academia, non-profits and the public sector. PAVE aims to bridge the gap between the huge resources that industry is investing in AV technology, and opinion polls that show that the public is largely confused and distrustful. Our mission is to educate and engage the public.

“We don’t advocate for any particular policy. We are all about education, having a conversation and raising the level of understanding – we want to equip everyone to be part of the conversation. We started with 18 members at CES, and we’ve grown to over 80 members. There has been a lot of agreement about the need for this kind of effort, including many big industry players.”

Importantly, PAVE now has many of these big players on-board: vehicle manufacturers including Audi, Ford, Toyota and VW; AV specialists Cruise, Oxbotica and Waymo; IT and comms giants Intel and Blackberry; motoring bodies including the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA); influential campaign groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD); and charities such as The National Federation of the Blind.

Andringa continues: “Although our organisation includes very diverse members with diverse missions, we find that our efforts are more impactful if all of these groups come together.

“We like to put on demonstration events to demystify the technology and the good news is that knowledge and experience change attitudes. When we get people into AVs, they often say it is just like being in a human-driven car, and it’s almost boring. For us, that’s a success. It builds trust and understanding, which are universal concepts.

PAVE demo
PAVE AV demonstration event

“We also conduct surveys and have found a lot of confusion about the technology that’s on the road today – from people who say self-driving cars will never happen, to people who think their cars are already equipped to drive themselves.

“In particular, people confuse driver assistance with self-driving. We very much believe ADAS can improve safety, but we always emphasise that all cars for sale today require a responsible driver behind the wheel.

“Another way we have reached a lot of people is through our weekly panel discussions looking at all different aspects of AVs. These originally came about due to the pandemic, but they have gotten over 12,000 views on YouTube.

PAVE panel
PAVE panel discussion

“Recently we partnered with the State of Ohio to engage the public sector. Town and city authorities want to be ready, but they have lots of questions. We ran a workshop on how AVs work from the point of view of regulation, freight, law enforcement and linking with existing transport. The response was incredibly positive.”

For more information, including links to the panel discussions and other helpful resources, visit