This article was written by our Head of Technology, Mark Cracknell, for the for the Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) Technology Magazine.
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There are many discussions around the benefits of CAVs, with grand promises of saving lives and reducing journey times. Not only will CAVs create a safer future, they will also provide improved mobility for those who can’t drive, multiple environmental benefits and something we all need more of; time.
However, to ensure the success of this connected revolution we will need a cohesive, connected and collaborative ecosystem of technologies, organisations and policies. And not only will CAV need these, it will rely solely on them.
At Meridian we are focusing on leading the world’s self-driving sector from the heart of the UK. We are working with industry, academia and government to demonstrate the UK’s potential and help deliver a connected future. A key part of our work is to pull together a collaborative ecosystem. We want to connect industry leaders from companies around the globe together with policy makers in order to accelerate the future of CAV deployment.
The ways in which we do this is by creating a comprehensive and accessible development environment in the UK. Many cities around the world are already starting to create test environments for CAVs including MCity in Michigan and AIMS in Melbourne. Each with a specific purpose, will no doubt move CAVs towards a safe deployment. Here in the UK we have created a cluster of test environments which address all the challenges that CAVs could face. All contained within a 3-hour drive, we are working towards a compact, comprehensive and coordinated environment for CAV testing.
In phase 1 we have two complementary public urban testbed environments, a controlled and semi-controlled test environment, and a high-speed limit handling facility. Between them it will provide a comprehensive suite of testbed environments. In addition to this, each testbed is developing simulated and virtual testing capabilities. They are all working together to ensure a connected community for the UK. We are also in the process of evaluating bids to fill in the gaps with two further projects. Meridian Mobility 2, a data exchange project, will facilitate the exchange of data, to test, develop and demonstrate CAV opportunities. Meridian Mobility 3 will deliver further physical test environments for parking, highway and rural environments which will complete the UK’s capability to representatively test any environment around the country and much of the global market.
Looking at how far we’ve come and how far there is to travel ahead of us we must pause to determine what should be done next. We can see how developments have been made and we have learnt a great deal over the past couple of decades with the introduction of autonomous features in vehicles. We are way beyond Level 0, where drivers control all aspects of the vehicle, and are slowly but surely introducing more automated features into vehicles from adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking to lane change assist. It’s an exciting time but we are still a long way off achieving a level of safety for a widely connected autonomous system and that’s why it’s more important than ever to focus our efforts in the right areas.
As previously highlighted the route to a safe, sustainable and beneficial deployment of CAVs is a collaborative one. It requires the effort of cities, mobility providers, automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, tech companies, infrastructure providers, telecoms companies and many more.
But how do we identify where additional support is required, and when does the government intervene? One way we are doing this is to look at a roadmap for a safe, sustainable and beneficial CAV sector. It is important to look from R&D all the way through to deployment. The CAV ecosystem is broad and encompasses many individual elements which must work together to be greater than the sum of its parts. The key themes include cyber security, safety, simulation, services, vehicle and infrastructure. Each of these components faces its own challenges and timelines that we must overcome.
Meridian sits at the heart of this to determine, on behalf of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), what needs be done. We work to target specific interventions, such as looking at where there are market failures and what we can do to progress the development of CAV technologies through testing facilities in the UK.
Focusing on collaboration, we are creating strategic partnerships with expert organisations to refine the UK’s understanding of this CAV ecosystem and to map the path ahead of us. One thing is clear, we must seek to work across sectors, across organisations, across departments and across the competitive landscape to deliver this future.
The future is bright
It’s a future that is bristling with potential, with many forecasts of the economic benefits ranging from £28bn-£52bn in the UK alone. But beyond this CAVs must deliver societal benefits including increased mobility, improved customer journeys, reduced costs and solve the last mile goods delivery problem.
However, there isn’t a straight road to the adoption of CAV and its technologies. This will hinge on public acceptance, whereby individual concerns over safety and data will need to be addressed. We need to understand what people’s perceptions of CAVs are and the impact that may have on how they interact and use these new mobility solutions.
Trust is key for unlocking the benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles. Change is coming, but only if it is an accepted mode of transport by all. Without trust consumers will be averse to this new connected future which can provide so many benefits for all. We are confident that with a concerted, positive effort this will be achieved, and the UK will be at the forefront of both the development and the adoption of this revolution.
Mark Cracknell, Head of Technology, Meridian