UK consultancy to study public attitudes to driverless cars


Innovate UK, the UK’s government-backed innovation agency, has called on one of the country’s leading communications companies, to carry out a feasibility study to test public perceptions of driverless vehicles, as part of a project led by People in Autonomous Vehicles in Urban Environments (PAVE), a consortium of experts in the field of self-driving technologies.

Leading UK communications consultancy Westbourne Communications will conduct the study, which will comprise workshops with relevant stakeholders such as politicians, academics, manufacturers and insurers. Members of the public will also be invited to attend one of several exhibitions to provide feedback.

The study will also examine the feasibility of Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire as a potential test site for new autonomous technologies. Each member of the PAVE consortium is at the heart of the UK’s driverless cars innovation, undertaking research alongside government and industry partners. The consortium includes Westbourne, the UK Autonomic Energy Authority’s RACE facility, Siemens, Amey, and Oxbotica, a spin-out from Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group.

The PAVE consortium was awarded funding following a lengthy examination process conducted by Innovate UK, which is overseeing a £20m (US$27.6m) fund for investment in collaborative R&D projects to stimulate developments in autonomous vehicles and connected transport systems.

Commenting on the appointment, Westbourne’s managing director, James Bethell (left), said, “The benefits of driverless cars are potentially enormous. But new technologies can often arouse unexpected concerns, such as safety and their economic impact. Too often, great new technologies can be delayed if they do not anticipate these concerns.

“Shale gas, genetically modified foods and nuclear energy are examples of promising technologies that faced resistance when deployed. This project is an important step in understanding how government and industry can collaborate to address these worries. We look forward to utilizing our experience and expertise to help companies and UK policymakers better understand the role of driverless cars in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).