Autonomous vehicles driving on our roads will need to operate more cautiously than the average driver in order to foster public trust in the technology.
This is the main finding from the second in a series of three trials carried out as part of the VENTURER project, one of the first connected and autonomous vehicle projects to have launched in the UK.
The trial focused on demonstrating safe interactions between driverless cars and one or more conventional vehicles in typical traffic scenarios.
It gathered the trust ratings of participants being driven in an AV to understand user responses both in a simulated and real world environment.
The experiments for the trial took place on roads at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) during the summer of 2017, using both the Wildcat road vehicle and the VENTURER Simulator, housed in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).
The trial was designed to replicate some of the most complex driving situations in urban areas including interactions at junctions and on road links.
Professor Tony Pipe, UWE Bristol’s Principal Investigator on the project, said, “Building trust in this technology is a crucial factor in its commercial success. VENTURER is firmly focused on the issues of user acceptability, and the effects this technology could have in the related legal and insurance sectors. The full analysis of the results will be an important factor in understanding the public reaction to this potentially revolutionary technology.
“Public opinion about driverless cars is mixed right now. Opinions range from being very excited about the potential for releasing useful time, increased road safety and wider social issues such as reduced needs for parking and pollution, to being very sceptical about many aspects.”
The experiment was organised in two phases. Phase one involved 45 participants experiencing ten different typical highway scenarios in both the Wildcat and the VENTURER Simulator.
During phase two, which took place only in the simulator, participants experienced the software deciding to pull out in front of other vehicles, as well as giving way.
The 41 participants involved in the second phase each sat in the simulator while it performed these manoeuvres, giving their feedback to the researcher sitting next to them.
Overall, participants showed greater trust in situations when the autonomous vehicle was driving in the more cautious setting, such as always giving way.
The next trial, set to take place in January and February 2018, will consider trust levels in AVs in the context of interactions with cyclists and pedestrians.