UK’s GATEway Project finds majority of the public support autonomous vehicles

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The team behind the UK’s groundbreaking GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) Project has presented summary findings from its three-year research program, which was the first of its kind to explore the public’s hopes, fears and attitudes towards autonomous vehicles.

Early results from research consultancy Commonplace’s ‘sentiment mapping’, a heat map capturing the public’s comments, indicates broad support (78%) for the idea of driverless vehicles on urban streets, provided they are safe and resistant to cyberattack. The public were invited to test prototype vehicles and services through a number of research streams: simulation trials; observations of pedestrian behavioral interactions with driverless vehicles; automated grocery delivery trials; and a public shuttle service that offered a hop-on/hop-off service at London’s Greenwich Peninsula.

The GATEway Project focused on people, rather than technology, and was groundbreaking in the way it invited the public to experience prototype technologies in a real-world setting, complete with pedestrians, cyclists, rain and snow. This provided novel opportunities for researchers to gain insight into the challenges of implementing new forms of transportation in complex real-world environments.

More than 31,000 members of the public engaged with the research, including more than 5,000 people who signed up to participate in the self-driving shuttle service trials, which were also open to residents and visitors to Greenwich, and 1,300 members of the public were interviewed. The study to find out what the public feels about using and sharing space with self-driving vehicles was conducted by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the University of Greenwich, Commonplace, and the Royal College of Art.

The University of Greenwich found that from a sample size of 925:

43% felt positive towards the concept of driverless vehicles;

46% were undecided, citing key concerns about cybersecurity (44%), road safety (51%), other (5%);

Only 11% of participants felt negatively towards these future forms of transportation, a figure borne out by the results from Commonplace’s sentiment mapping.

The research also found urbanites are happy to share transportation for last-mile journeys to and from transportation hubs, and that private car ownership was of lesser importance than ease of mobility.

“This is just the beginning of the journey towards connected and autonomous vehicles. Thanks to the GATEway Project’s research, the UK is in a prime position to build upon the lessons learned and experienced gained in trialing a whole range of driverless vehicles in urban environments,” noted Richard Cuerden, TRL Academy director. “We see driverless vehicles as a practical solution to delivering safe, clean, accessible and affordable mobility and we are proud to be part of creating our future transport system.”

The GATEway Project paves the way for the Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL), a world-leading testbed to benchmark connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) in a complex and urban environment, which is based in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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