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VENTURER tests attitudes to autonomous car behaviour

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Bristol’s connected and autonomous vehicles project VENTURER has completed its second tranche of experiments aimed at examining human attitudes and behaviour in relation to self driving cars.

The first experiment earlier this year tested the reactions of participants when alerted to take back manual control of an autonomous car. The second, known as ‘Trial 2’ took place during June and July and sought to study responses to the decisions made by these vehicles at junctions and while interacting with conventional vehicles in a mixed fleet scenario.

This experiment was held at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, where participants engaged in a series of repeated scenarios in both the project’s ‘Wildcat’ vehicle and the VENTURER simulator.

Scenarios included overtaking a parked vehicle with a vehicle oncoming, and turning left or right into and out of junctions while detecting passing vehicles. Participants were asked to rate their ability to trust the decisions made by the vehicle.

When asked to reflect on his time in the Wildcat vehicle one participant, Kurt, said: “What was interesting was that I trusted the car even though it makes different decisions to what I would have made if I was driving.” He added that at no point did he feel the vehicle’s decisions were unsafe and said it had interacted well with cars crossing its path.

Another participant, Megan, felt that although the vehicle was often “cautious around junctions”, she wasn’t nervous and thought that the CAV “made decisions that a normal driver would have in certain situations”.

However both identified the ability of autonomous vehicles to interact with pedestrians as a potential concern. This issue is set to be among those explored by VENTURER’s third trial.

Kurt commented that pedestrian attitudes towards CAVs might give them greater confidence about stepping into the road, which could lead to increased jaywalking and cause delays on the road network.

It is expected that the findings from Trial 2 will help to inform future research around the ability of CAVs to integrate integrate with other traffic on UK roads.