Despite recent successes in landmark trials of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), putting pioneering driverless technology on Britain’s roads is still dependent on getting such vehicles to behave and react to complex scenarios in a human-like manner. Richard Hillman, principal CAV engineer at HORIBA MIRA, examines how industry and government collaboration on projects such as HumanDrive is making great strides in adding the ‘human touch’ to CAVs

projects of its kind in the UK to date; HumanDrive. Led by Nissan, the ground-breaking, government-

funded project’s aim was to set a precedent in the UK for the successful deployment of an autonomous vehicle driving in a human-like manner whilst completing a complex journey on real roads; a brief which was far exceeded. Using the most sophisticated, cutting edge

technology, the collaborative project saw numerous industry giants and research bodies come together in a 33-month study designed to accurately develop ways of measuring human-like driving behaviour and then verify its accurate replication in the autonomous driving style of the cars. The end result saw a huge landmark in CAV


or some time now, the movement towards con- nected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) has

been heralded as the future of mass transport. Forming an integral part of a future mobility

vision designed to tackle increased mobility demands, while negating the associated negative environmental and social impacts, recent years have seen CAVs gain wide-reaching support from many leading economies around the world. While new details may emerge in a post-

coronavirus world, only last year the UK government declared its ambitions to be the frontrunner in the commercialisation of CAVs, whereby it aims to have connected vehicles on roads without any human oversight by 20211. Such ambition has been followed by an influx

of landmark CAV trials across the UK and globally. Last October, for example, saw the first demonstration of an autonomous fleet driving in a “complex urban environment” in London2, shortly followed by the completion of the first test case of using driverless cars to carry human passengers on Britain’s roads.3 On the automotive manufacturing front this is

being met with a gradual increased use of autonomous features such as automated parking, automatic lane keeping and adaptive cruise control; effectively transitioning consumers towards an autonomous future. However, while recent years have certainly seen

the industry make huge strides in the movement towards the new age of clean, efficient transport afforded by CAV adoption, the reality is that there remains a considerable journey ahead until we achieve mass deployment.


One huge research and development area lies in tackling the fundamental challenge of getting self- driving vehicles to effectively behave and perform like a human. Inherently, this is an incredibly complex task

given that any one car journey can throw up an infinite number of scenarios to which the ‘human’ has to react, such as pedestrian crossings, or cars driving too closely behind, through to a more complex scenario associated with an incident on the road. In a truly automated, driverless situation, a CAV would have to act and react in real-time as a skilled human driver would. Add to the equation a whole realm of other

factors for consideration – such as differences in terrain and environmental conditions, dealing with difficult manoeuvres and responding to changes in traffic levels – and the range of potentially complex scenarios grows to a significant level. In this way, mainstream CAV deployment upon

roads shared with ‘traditional’ traffic will depend upon the ability to ensure vehicles are truly able to act like a car driven by a trained and experienced human driver in the infinite number of possible scenarios that could happen in any one journey.


Luckily, the UK is proving to be at the forefront of this, with the nation’s automotive industry continu- ing to push the boundaries of CAV development in a number of ways. This March, for example, saw the completion of arguably one of the most ambitious CAV research


development as a HumanDrive vehicle made the ‘Grand Drive’ of 230 miles – constituting Britain’s longest and most complex autonomous car journey to date, covering a multifaceted variety of road types, terrains and environmental conditions. As part of this, HORIBA MIRA, a world-leading

vehicle engineering, research, development and testing consultancy, was responsible for researching the safety implications of the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within autonomous vehicles, in support of the safety case, and for developing processes to test that the AI has behaved as expected. This was important as while AI is a vital technology for enabling autonomous vehicles, it is challenging to test – given that, much like the biological neural networks that form human minds, it is difficult to understand ‘why’ a decision has been made. In response, HORIBA MIRA’s leading CAV and

advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) testing teams devised a series of testable scenarios which would validate and verify the performance of CAV systems in normal operation and in unexpected situations. Each scenario was subsequently tested in a fully automated setting at HORIBA MIRA’s vast proving ground. As we look to the future, there is no doubt that

scenario-based testing, which will evolve in complexity in the coming years along with broader CAV development capability, will play a vital role in future mass deployment, creating a safer, cleaner and smarter era for modern transport. However, just like the many recent automotive

breakthroughs before it, the journey towards CAV deployment will be a gradual one which will require incremental steps forward not only in technology but the understanding behind it.

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