Researchers at the University of Nottingham are part of a new, national initiative to make self-driving cars a reality in UK cities.
The researchers are aiming to answer questions such as how pedestrians can know if a driverless vehicle is, for example, going to start moving, stop moving, or turn a corner when in an automated mode.
The hope is through smart, connected technologies, autonomous vehicles will one day communicate together to improve traffic safety and reduce congestion that currently blights cities.
The Human Factors Research Group (HFRG) at the University of Nottingham will use methods and technologies – including virtual reality, prediction and simulation systems within their lab – to get an intelligent mobility service off the ground as part of a taxi project called ‘ServCity’ that involves car manufacturer Nissan.
Gary Burnett (Professor of Transport Human Factors) from HFRG at the University of Nottingham, said: “There are unanswered questions about how self-driving vehicles will function in the real world, in particular, their abilities to convey their intentions to humans in busy, complex environments.
“For instance, how do pedestrians know if a driverless taxi is going to start moving or stop or turn a corner or whether it’s operating in full automated mode?
“For ServCity, we will use our expertise in conducting and analysing user studies to explore how people might interact with future automated taxis, both as customers and pedestrians.
“Part of our studies will also focus on accessibility. For example, how will someone with visual impairment hail a taxi or a customer with a physical disability be supported to get their luggage in and out of a cab that has no driver?
“To this end, the theories, models and methods we employ will help to develop a self-driving taxi service that has a user-centred design which considers a broad range of city inhabitants, and their different needs.”
Over the next 30 months, the University of Nottingham, Nissan, Hitachi, the Connected Places Catapult and TRL (a transport research company) – will develop practical guidance on the best business models to make driverless transport both technically and economically viable.
Want us to send you a daily round-up of our biggest stories, and breaking news alerts, direct to your email inbox?
Sign up to our newsletter here.
Through a combination of test simulation, end-user experience research and real-world trials using driverless taxis within London, ServCity aims to overcome common barriers – such as public scepticism – to make the technology commonplace.
ServCity is jointly funded by industry and the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility fund, which is administered by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and delivered by Innovate UK.
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “If society is to enjoy the benefits of self-driving vehicles, we need to ensure the technology can safely master a complex and lively, modern city, with all its obstacles.”
Bob Bateman, project manager from Nissan – lead partner on the project –added: “We are extremely proud to be lead partner on the ServCity project and are excited to trial our fully electric Nissan LEAF as the test vehicle.
“Our Intelligent Mobility strategy strives to achieve a mobility future that is more electric, more autonomous and more connected and we look forward to working in collaboration with ServCity’s other partners to achieve this.”