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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.