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PAVE UK’s first outreach event at Somerscience 2024

A week has now passed since PAVE UK’s first outreach event at Somerscience 2024. The annual Somerscience Festival brings together families and organisations for a day of fun and exciting STEM-based activities, with the science fair taking place at Haynes Motor Museum. There were over five thousand visitors attending the events across Somerset this year. This week, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the many conversations and discussions that were held, and we are now able to share them with you. In this blog entry, we’ll be discussing a few of our thoughts and observations from the event, as well as our next steps as we look towards future events.

PAVE UK aims to engage the general public in conversations about automated vehicles, allowing future users to play a role in informing the safe technological development of such systems. The Somerscience Festival was a fantastic opportunity to directly speak with the public, allowing us to understand some of the current perspectives surrounding automated vehicles and to spark discussions on their safety, accessibility, use, and impact on people’s daily lives. Additionally, it facilitated engagement with school aged children by getting them involved in the conversation and enabling them to start exploring the technologies behind automated vehicles, therefore developing the skills and knowledge of the next generation.

As this was PAVE UK’s first outreach event, the main goal was to foster discussion with members of the public and discover their thoughts on self-driving vehicles. To this end, a few activities were set up as part of the PAVE UK stand—a remote-controlled vehicle, a demo of road scenario creation using WMG’s SafetyPool™ Studio, and a post-it board to capture the perceived benefits and challenges of self-driving vehicles—all of which were designed to spark conversations with people of all ages.

When asked “If we had a self-driving vehicle here today, would you get in it?”, everyone had their own response. Most people were very willing to get into a self-driving vehicle on a closed test track, with no external traffic, but fewer were happy to test one on the real roads straight away—instead, they indicated that they would be confident to move to higher-speed roads with other vehicles once they had a better understanding of the technology and its safety. Attendees were optimistic about the possibilities of self-driving vehicles, with many people hoping that they could be used to restore mobility to some of the more vulnerable members of society, such as people with visual impairments, or older drivers with less confidence on the road. However, a few visitors also mentioned that they would only trust the vehicles personally once they had been running safely for several years first. Considering another angle, some people also voiced doubts as to whether insurers would be willing to cover fully autonomous vehicles.

On a level closer to home, a lot of people who had driven to the event said that their cars had some level of driving assistance, varying from adaptive cruise control to automated lane keeping systems. There were also different levels of trust in these systems, with most people confident to use them on a motorway. However, a few drivers described existing performance issues in more nuanced scenarios, such as on rural roads with unreliable road markings. One thing that these discussions illustrate is the importance of educating the public on the difference between cars with high levels of driver assistance, and fully self-driving vehicles. In general, people were optimistic, but curious about a range of areas regarding safety, practicality, human factors, and administration.

The next outreach event on PAVE UK’s radar is MotoFest 2024, in Coventry. Unlike the Somerscience Festival, which is primarily aimed at families with children, MotoFest 2024 caters to those with a

particular interest in driving and vehicles more generally—as such, it will be exciting to see how opinions differ between the two events.

Overall, the Somerscience Festival was a highly successful initial outreach event for PAVE UK, fostering discussion across all ages and sparking curiosity in future generations. With the new insights gained from this, we hope to improve our educational offerings going forwards, and reach many people in the events to come. We look forward to seeing you next time!

Fri 24 May 2024, 15:58 | Tags: Verification and Validation