UK First as Driverless Car Talks To Bus in South Gloucestershire
The UK’s first on-road demonstration of a driverless car interacting with a bus has recently taken place in South Gloucestershire.
The pioneering driverless vehicle demonstration, which involved wireless communication between a single decker bus provided by First West of England and a BAE 'Wildcat' vehicle equipped with connected and autonomous technology, was carried out by the VENTURER consortium.
The aim was to test ‘look ahead’ functionality, where the autonomous system, including sensors (provided by Fusion Processing), a wireless communications system (provided by the University of Bristol) and the vehicle’s Decision Making System (provided by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory), enabled the Wildcat to be notified that the road ahead was clear so the vehicle could then safely navigate around a stopped bus despite having obstructed vision. Another scenario was undertaken when there was no oncoming vehicle and the Wildcat was able to make an immediate ‘go’ decision to continue around the bus without the need to stop.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, with responsibility for economic development in the Cabinet, Councillor Toby Savage, said: “As a local authority, we are proud to be one of the country’s leading centres for innovation and at the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle research and development. As a place where industry and research institutes are already choosing to innovate, we are open to providing the infrastructure, platforms and resource at our disposal to support innovation.
“Our involvement in projects such as VENTURER brings us invaluable learning at no cost to the local council tax payer, and should help us be better prepared for the future and maximise on any associated cost savings. This experience also puts us in a position to advise other local authorities and organisations.”
VENTURER Project Manager, Carolyn Mitchell of Atkins said: “The bus demonstration represented a step change in technical, safety and management challenges due to its location on an open road and the resulting potential for interactions with members of the public and their vehicles. The success of the demonstration shows the successful collaboration between VENTURER partners to deliver safe and innovative real-world tests of a range of connected and autonomous technologies.”
James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England, said: “As a bus operator we have a very keen interest in technology, whether this is to improve our customers' journey experience through smarter ticketing, reduce vehicle emissions, improve the efficiency of our fleet and operations or indeed technology to improve road safety.
“We are involved in various innovative projects taking place in Bristol, and our interest in VENTURER is mainly to understand developments in autonomous vehicle technology, and in particular how sensor technology installed on buses could make roads a safer place for other road users. This is not a new development: We are currently in the process of installing an innovative safety feature called CycleEye and developed by Fusion on Metrobus vehicles, which alerts bus drivers when cyclists are on the near side of the vehicle.”
Partners in the VENTURER consortium include: Atkins (part of SNC-Lavalin), AXA UK, BAe Systems, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, First Group, Fusion Processing, Williams Advanced Engineering, University of the West of England and University of Bristol.