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TP Blog: Driverless systems test benefits asset management

But an unexpected benefit from collecting 8500 hours of footage from a driver’s perspective is helping the local authority to better maintain its street infrastructure and identify potential highway design improvements, reports TP Editor Mike Walter.

At an event last Wednesday on the North Greenwich Peninsula, members from the MOVE UK consortium outlined progress made over the last three years to collect driving footage that can be used to ‘validate’ future automated driving systems.

Five Land Rover Discovery vehicles fitted with sensors and data recording equipment have been driven by council staff without major incident since August 2016.

Cameras did, however, detect 450 hazardous braking events of which 25 are described as being of critical importance to system developers. Using the data they can understand how motorists behave in the real world and develop suitable automated driving systems.

Some of the events involved other motorists cutting in from the offside and nearly making contact. Other situations included a vehicle in front pulling away from a set of traffic lights, only to stop sharply seconds later. Footage from the 8500 hours of recording has been condensed down to 150 minutes; showing all 450 hazardous braking sequences. Each segment lasts for 20 seconds: 15 seconds of video before the near miss and five seconds afterwards.

For one of the project’s partners, the project has thrown up an added benefit. In reviewing the video data taken from the vehicles on test, the Royal Borough of Greenwich can now identify street signs pointing the wrong way or those that are obscured by vegetation. Seeing how motorists behave at certain junctions is also providing an opportunity to identify if certain road layouts could be made safer.

Royal Borough of Greenwich smart cities lead Trevor Dorling, who directs the ‘Digital Greenwich’ initiative, says: “This has been an interesting byproduct of the project. We can immediately recognise signs that are turned the wrong way or where vegetation is growing in front of them.

“We can also use the data to gain insights as to where there could be traffic incidents in the future at difficult junctions based on near misses, so we can think about how we plan our infrastructure in future.”

Move UK’s lead project manager Simon Morley said the automated driving industry is facing a challenge in testing and validating new systems, and that the project – which is about to come to an end after three years – provides a new method of validating automated driving systems.

“Event based data recording will revolutionise the testing of autonomous vehicle systems in future and be extremely powerful for engineers and developers of these systems,” he said. Simon added that real world testing is important as “we need to understand all of the behaviours on the road”.

“The project is not about pushing the boundaries of autonomy; it is developing a new method to make sure those systems are ready and safe for the market.” A final report on the Move UK programme – which also involves Bosch, TRL, Jaguar LandRover, telematics company The Floow and insurer Direct Line – is due next month.

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