Driverless cars will burn out your eyes and eat your soul

All the nonsense in one place; busting the myths about Self Driving Cars for your easy consumption.  And please remember to fasten your seat belts before take-off.

  1. The Trolley Problem
  2. Driverless cars will blind us all with laser beams!
  3. Cars will be easy to hack
  4. We’ll all lose our jobs…

The Trolley Problem

Turn left and mow down a group of children, or turn right and hit a tree, killing the vehicle’s occupants.

The modern version of the trolley problem, created as a thought experiment, has often been applied to autonomous vehicles as a warning on the complexity of decisions they will supposedly have to make.

In a nut-shell, this is a daft problem which provides a philosophical approach to an ethical dilemma without taking into consideration very important and fairly simple facts.

  1. Cars are already engineered to protect their occupants far better than they are engineered to protect pedestrians or other road users. The safest car on the road (the Volvo XC90), measured by Euro NCAP, has a 98% safety rating for occupants and a frankly appalling ~75% rating for protecting pedestrians. In fact, not one car goes above 85% for pedestrians.
  2. Given a complex situation, a driverless car will just come safely to a stop. Waymo testers are well known for their ingenuity and creativity in trying to defeat their own cars’ ability to perceive their environments, and when faced with the ‘impossible to plan for’…  In one case coming across a crowd of people dressed as frogs hopping across a road, Waymo had programmed the vehicle to just gently brake until the route was clear.
  3. Nobody will ever get into a vehicle that favours the safety of someone else over you. Credit to writer and commentator Alex Roy for that, but it’s true… unless you’re getting into a vehicle with the express purpose of never getting off, like the Suicide Roller Coaster. Rather than considering a vehicle that’s safe for everyone, we are not generous enough to think about buying a vehicle that’s not safe for us and only safe for people around us. After all, we want to survive the journey to McDonald’s.

Of course, the nature of psychologists is to disagree, and the nature of philosophers is to question the meaning of everything. Am I right, wrong, is that a question or a lump of cheese?  What does it all mean?


Driverless cars will blind us all with laser beams!

Wrong, wrong and wrong! Actually, wrong by a factor of 2 million, and I’ll explain why.

For this, we can fall back on technology facts and the laws of physics, which thankfully are not subject to votes, gerrymandering, or sinister algorithmic fake-news bots controlled by scary government forces.

Any device using a laser must be allocated to Classes, with 1 at the bottom and 4 at the top. Lasers you find in CD players and Laser Copiers… and Lidar units, are all Class 1.  That’s the power or frequency at which there is ‘no possibility of eye damage’, i.e. there have never been any recorded cases of damage, even under extended exposure.

But that doesn’t tell us why.. or indeed what could happen if another Class of laser were used.

To be effective, a Lidar unit (Light Distance and Ranging) emits a tiny bit of energy on the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This energy is focused into a tight beam (i.e. turned into a laser) and then steered around a scene, by a mirror, a motor, or by a tiny device which combines those two things, called a MEMS.  The energy, in the form of photons, travels out from the Lidar, hits and object and then some of those photons bounce back.  The unit (and associated processing and software) then measure the timing and location of those bounces, and similar to your eyes, builds a rough 3D picture.

While Lidar is a fairly mature technology, having been theorised first in the 1930s and used in the Moon landings in the 1960s, it’s going through a few big changes. Arguably the two most important being the idea to make them move from a single mount (most commonly spinning lidars, as seen regularly on autonomous R&D vehicles) and the second, happening right now, the move away from this and towards ‘solid state lidars’, where a wide field of view can be taken in by multiple smaller, cheaper sensors, rather than several big, complicated expensive ones.

Either way, the maths we do is roughly the same, so we’ll use the example of the well known ‘Velodyne Puck’ which is widely used, and Velodyne has usefully published detailed specifications for.

Each sensor has between 16 and 128 lasers, which rapidly rotate at approximately 10 hertz, or 10 full revolutions per second, creating about 30,000 beam points.

One Watt. One James Watt, to be exact.

Each laser pulses at a wavelength of 905nm (that’s just below 1/1000th of a millimetre) with power of 1 or 2 mW. That’s roughly the same energy needed to lift up a single grain of rice.

For comparison purposes, this is about 1/5,000th or 0.02% of the power output in your standard 10-watt LED headlamp bulb on a low-beam setting.

Any single laser beam would sweep across an inadvertently glancing eye in approximately 1 millisecond. And since each individual laser is mounted in a different orientation and angle, multiple lasers cannot strike the eye.

1000th of a second… and a very small amount of power.

There alone is a factor of 1 million-to-1 in favour of “It’s going to be fine”.

Going up a notch

Let’s say we swap all this out for a Class II laser, that’s up to 1mW (1000th of a Watt) and using Visible light.  Even if we did that, damage would only start to occur after 1000 seconds of continuous exposure to a single spot within the eye. That is sitting very still… still enough for a Victorian photograph – nearly 17 minutes!

Driverless cars at a disco…

Ramp it up another notch to Class IIIa lasers and up to 5mW of power and finally we start to see some medical evidence of damage to eyes if exposed to certain wavelengths for several continuous seconds..

Up another notch to Class IIIb and yes, damage is probably going to occur because that includes 5mW up to 500mW – or half a Watt of power, and Class IV is where we start to burn holes through things and shine beams on other planets.

The length of a wave is directly proportional to how much you want the person to leave

From your school years, you may recall that if you decrease wavelength, then frequency of the wave increases proportionally. The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, and vice versa.

What most people do not know, however, is that the energy level also changes.

That means that visible light, for example, has more energy in its photons than the longer wavelength, higher frequency energy in the infrared band.

Let’s take the example above of the Velodyne Pucks, which operate at a wavelength of 905 nanometres, compared with visible light, which ranges from 390 to 770 nanometres (or nm) or roughly one third to three quarters of one thousandth of one millimetre. That’s even smaller!

Because the ratio between wavelength and energy is exactly the same, we can just do the sum with the wavelengths to give us the correct ratio of how the energy level would also change. If you have more cats (wavelength), you’ll also need more cat-food (energy).

905 divided by the range of visible light 390 to 770, gives us another multiplier … from 2.3 to 1.7.

That means that in addition to our time factor error of 1 million, we have another factor, i.e. of the beam wavelength difference conveying a different amount of energy.  So, at visible light wavelengths, there’s actually about twice as much energy travelling down the laser beam as is found in this infrared unit.  Since you’re still persevering, let’s round it off at 2.

Finally, we can multiply our energy factor by the time factor… and we get to 2 million!

You’d need to be within a few metres of 2 million lidar units, and even at the rate of growth we’ve seen in the lidar market recently, even that would be a challenge.  Before we conclude, the human body is also self-healing, so if we were to have this weird miracle occur, it would only take a few days for the eye to fully recover.

In summary, no, we’re not all about to go blind from Self Driving Cars.


Cars will be easy to hack

Certainly not helped by the apocalyptical scenes of driverless cars being taken over to hinder our heros’ progress in Hollywood movies, the much publicised ‘Jeep Hack’ – an attack on a Jeep Cherokee which took control of some functions in 2016 – actually took 6 months to plan and implement, time which included a significant amount of direct access to the vehicle in question.

As was succinctly pointed out to me by a senior engineering leader, ‘Engineers don’t make things to fail’. They are manufacturers using scientific method.  If there’s evidence to say that the existing approach does not work, the approach needs to be modified.

It might be distasteful to consider the following, but I ask you to spare a moment as we venture into the dark soul of a nefarious criminal, assassin or scruffy-haired ne’er-do-well.

Murder most horrid. I suspect the perpetrator had a chip on their shoulder.

Yes Mr Big, you want Bob Jones to be eliminated, I understand.  Well, of all the methods I would choose, I would definitely use the most fiendishly complex and time consuming, and definitely not use a blunt object, readily available firearm or knife, or just set a fire in their basement

Evidently many years watching Criminal Minds have served me well.

Anyway, I digress… the problem is that, given these are technology systems, the pay off needs to be technologically motivated. Sure, there are weaknesses in any system designed to communicate data from one place to another, and with a vehicle designed with sensors, many companies making the hardware and software therein are increasingly paying attention to how those processes could be hijacked, but add in to the mix multi-sensor validation, and the problem moves from edge case to almost impossible.

Let’s say you can fool a vehicle’s vision system into misreading a road sign (see the genuine example here of one algorithm thinking the cat is actually guacamole – the image has been modified specifically to defeat the computer vision system).

The same driverless system also has other data sources: lidar and radar to detect traffic density and enact safe operating distances, mapping data including junction configurations, and in the future, wireless connectivity to traffic management systems.

The future of ‘over the air updates’, now a regular feature in new cars, from an ever increasing number of manufacturers, coupled with the ability to alter how the processors around the vehicle actually behave (so called ‘Field Programmable Gate Arrays, or FPGAs), mean that any alterations to the system can be fixed easily, any software amendments authorised against a community of other vehicles, any unathorised attack detected.

That means that, much like your smartphone or friendly neighbourhood laptop or tablet, security updates will be downloaded without your knowledge with validations carried out against remote encrypted checking files.

It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to consider that blockchain-like technology could be used to validate updates against the server at your local dealer or even the other cars in your street.

Hacking cars is just so fantastically complex, and so utterly pointless in comparison to simpler means to control or attack, and so easily defeated, that the realms of practicality simply don’t extend to include it as a worthwhile exercise for your unfriendly neighbourhood gangster or your international megolomaniac.


We’ll all lose our jobs…

Do you work as a driver?

Autonomous cars will arrive with a whimper. As I have written before, the nature of physically manufacturing and shipping a vehicle to a buyer is a complex task but multiply that task across the population of the world and you have a revolution that will take 20 years to get half way and perhaps 30-40 years to conclude.

In the context of technological progress, that’s not particularly fast, and thankfully increases the visibility of this issue across the education and skills supply chain (i.e. schools and education) as well as providing plenty of warning for those who are professionally employed as vehicle operators, to the imminent change of vehicles ‘going driverless’.

Few of the jobs I have enjoyed in the past 15 years existed when I was at school, largely because they have revolved around technologies invented after I left. Does that mean that I won’t be able to survive the technologies that have not yet been invented?  No, of course no, it just means I shall adapt.

Denise starting wearing a wig to get Gerald’s attention because he started to prefer blondes. She adapted.

Despite some indications to the contrary, notably in politics, humans are actually quite good at learning and adapting to their environment, i.e. not just surviving, but thriving – despite challenges.

Higher-skilled drivers, and those that offer additional services, will have a place for a few more years even after driverless vehicles arrive, as people with luggage or special access requirements may still need help dismounting vehicles, at least until the cost of replacing them drops to a point where technology can provide a better service at lower cost.

That, you see, becomes the pivot point.  Not just of the direct cost of technology development, but the indirect costs of providing a robust interface to the real world for users of the system, a driverless Uber that can automatically deploy a ramp or help me stand up, leaving my luggage at the entrance to the hotel lobby.

How many grocery delivery drivers will lose their jobs if the current convenience of ‘mouse click to kitchen delivery’ turns in to ‘mouse click to tedious slog from the road side driverless van’?

Consumers would be worse off, so drivers are safe – for now.

The technologies which enable autonomy are all advancing apace, between shrinking processors, sharper sensors and smarter software, but the shape and nature of economics will not change.

Customer service and convenience will dominate the evolution, reducing cost and increasing business profitability will pay for it, and neither can be compromised for the sake of replacing humans with robots.


To that end, remember that technology does change, but human nature does not.

It is in our habit to live unwanted change through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – when it’s easier just to look at the cold hard facts.

Yes, things will change, yes, life will be different, yes, jobs will be lost… but actually, things won’t change all that suddenly, jobs will actually change and society will adapt and overall, life will go on just as it always has, surviving and thriving despite the seismic sociological shifts that new technologies trigger.


Want to find out more about the technology in self driving cars? Come along to our Self Driving Track Days workshop in Milton Keynes on 10 July >>


Please consume responsibly!  This article is meant as a call to arms and lightweight introduction to lots of different ideas. If you want to learn more, come to an event and talk to the real experts – but all the same, we hope you enjoyed it and remember kids, check your facts! – Alex Lawrence-Berkeley

When and why your innovation could be funded

We’ve been to a few events recently, including two that particularly stood out that were organised by the brilliant team in a small and occasionally overlooked organisation called the Knowledge Transfer Network, a unified body (from a previously multi-disciplined 15 organisations) tasked with bringing businesses together at events to share information, learn about new technologies, network and find out about Innovate UK funding calls.

These two events, Quantum Technology in Transport, and Embedded AI, showed not just the admirable variety of technology developers in the UK, from small scale to multi-national, but also highlighted the pivotal role held by funding organisations, notably Innovate UK, to act as a central facilitator and aggravator of investment into the development of new technologies over short, medium and long term.

But how do you define where technology can be used, or trickier still, when an immature technology might make an impact?

This is where a tried and tested measure called the ‘Technology Readiness Level’ can be applied.  This multi-step process, which has slight variants in Space, Energy, Defense and other sectors in the UK, EU and US defines how mature the technology is, and thus whether it would benefit from further investment to help it mature into a viable product that is commercially successful, and eventually return that investment to the investor.

In the case of Innovate UK, the investor is also the taxpayer (that’s you and me), so the commercial success of a product is both an improved tax return to the government within the country, and the potential for an improved export volume from the country, improving the balance of economic advantage.

Technology Readiness Levels

Description
TRL 1. basic principles observed
TRL 2. technology concept formulated
TRL 3. experimental proof of concept
TRL 4. technology validated in lab
TRL 5. technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
TRL 6. technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
TRL 7. system prototype demonstration in operational environment
TRL 8. system complete and qualified
TRL 9. actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)

Innovate UK operates mainly in the areas of TRL 3 to 7, where there’s the greatest difficulty, taking on the mantle from the national research councils – which fund lower levels of research, and the commercial sector (also known as the glory seekers!) taking on the significantly reduced risk of a close-to-perfected product.

One step further away from Innovate UK, lies in the strategy it is required to fulfil, often set a few years beforehand.  So the idea of CAVs (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) being identified as of real importance in the early 2010s, helped to focus attention on not just one but many different areas that needed to be looked at – not just legislative (road law in the UK is very complex) but also commercial, educational, industrial and societal.

Two of the larger government departments, BEIS and DfT, had a ‘special cuddle’ and out shot CCAV, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles), sibling to the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, to define a more detailed strategy and make some intelligent investments to start resolving these problem areas.

The large research projects, of which there have been more than 50, have investigated many of these. Since 2014, there have now been three CAV funding rounds, and so far, one separate CAV testbed round. Aligned to those, there have been funding calls for Emerging and Enabling Technologies, AR/VR plus the open innovation calls.  In short, a lot of money has been spent to stimulate further private investment (almost all of it has been match funded by industry 50/50).

Many of these will be coming along to The London Motor Show, and we expect that a few will also be coming along to Self Driving Track Days in July.

There are three more relevant funding rounds this year, including another CAV testbed round and a fourth (and probably final) CAV research round – so there’s still plenty of room for more innovation and research for bold new ideas if you want to find out more and start working in the sector.

Our top tips

  • Sign up to the KTN newsletters (as many as are relevant)
  • Attend some events
  • Read, watch and learn as much as you can!

We have lots of articles, videos and will always try to point you in the right direction, but there’s little better than getting yourself to a real event where engineers are on-hand to give you genuinely exciting and hands-on experience.


 

Prize draw results – Did you win?

From November to February, we have invited attendees to enter a prize draw at events that we’ve attended.

And, we have now drawn to find some lucky winners, all of whom get free entry to the event, which will include a full day of workshops, driverless technology demonstrations and of course refreshments throughout the day – taking place at Daytona Milton Keynes on July 10th 2018.

At four events in the past four months, the winners are: Guilhermina Torrao, a PhD researcher at the University of Bradford; Tim Biggs, Sensor Technologist at AVX Electronics; Pedro Machado, a Design Engineer at Sundance Multiprocessor, and; Anna Relton, who found us at the Transport for London Museum’s event, “Transport and the Future”.

We’ll be talking to all four lucky winners in the next few weeks to find out more about their own interest, experience, and ask why they are interested in autonomous vehicle technologies.


Bookings are already open for Self Driving Track Days, and we expect the agenda to be completed and announced in the spring, in the mean-time, we are also supporting work on the brand new Autonomous Vehicle Zone at The Confused.com London Motor Show, which we aim to include our trademark mix of exciting technology displays and fascinating educational insights.

As we march toward the event date, we have another prize draw – for anyone that signs up to our mailing list, for the first time, in March could be in with a chance to win a free place!

It’s simple, all you have to do is sign up with your email address to be in with a chance of winning 😊

 

Save the date – 2018 event date announced

Coming to the year’s end gives us a chance to review what we’ve achieved, and sometimes that means doing things differently – so we’ll do fewer but bigger events… that includes working on The London Motor Show 2018 developing a brand new exciting feature there.

It would be easy to carry on as before but as an event organiser, it’s important to take on feedback so we are moving to a UK venue in the autonomous vehicle heartland of Milton Keynes and shortening the event to one day.

We trialed this event format in Austria in July 2017 and it worked very well for attendees and sponsors (who typically have quite large overhead costs to consider in their commitment to taking part).

The event will include a number of half-day workshops, a small exhibition and of course, our driverless vehicle demonstrations, with space for 150 attendees to come and take part.  Lunch will be included, and there will be a BBQ and karting in the evening as an optional extra.

Please add the date to your diary… Tuesday 10th July 2018 at Daytona Karting, Milton Keynes.

We’ll be confirming more details in early 2018, so if you are not already on the mailing list, please sign up now.

Engineers and technologists come together to take part in unique event combining autonomous vehicle demonstrations and learning workshop

Self Driving Track Days comes to OAMTC Teesdorf, Austria on Friday 28 July 2017 for a 1-day track-side event incorporating autonomous vehicle demonstrations and a full day workshop for anyone interested in learning more about driverless vehicles and related technologies. The event will lead attendees through the basic principles of building an autonomous vehicle; design and safety implications; plus a detailed overview of the sensor, processing and software technology suppliers in this rapidly growing sector.

“Excellent, inspirational” Sanyaade Adekoya, Pat-Eta Electronics Ltd

“The event provides an opportunity for learning, networking, research and development, and collaboration, with live demonstrations of vehicles on-track, guided by the experts who built them. Sense Media has run a series of well-received demo events in the UK, France and USA – this event at OAMTC will be the first demonstration of autonomous vehicles available in Austria for members of the public to sign up to.” Comments Robert Stead, Managing Director of Sense Media.

He continues “Wherever you are based, whatever autonomous technology you focus on, whatever your resources – Self Driving Track Days is on your side to educate and provide hands-on experience for those with an interest in autonomous vehicle technologies.”

Introductory and intermediate level workshop sessions

Attendees will gain an understanding of the technologies that enable autonomous driving in our technology showcase, with discussions around AI, Sensor Fusion, Open Standards, Functional Safety and more. The workshop has been developed in close coordination with experienced technologists from across the autonomous driving industry. 3-hour sessions will be delivered by specialists from TU GrazCodeplay Software, AIMotive, Horiba Mira, with further contributions from AutonomouStuffNovAtel, Quantum, and a joint demonstration from NXP and Intempora.

“A really useful and informative day. The sponsors were very helpful and thought provoking. Simply too much to take in on just one day and I thought of so much more to ask about while travelling home” James Hardy, University of Derby

View the full agenda >>

Autonomous Vehicle Demonstrations

In addition to the workshop, participants will have the opportunity to ride in an autonomous vehicle demonstrating a range of sensors and communication technologies. This unique opportunity will give attendees a real insight into the operating principals and practical considerations of building autonomous vehicles.

Visitors and press are invited to see first-hand what the latest technology can do, how the vehicle interacts with other vehicles and environment, and talk to the engineers developing the full vehicle systems. In this intimate venue dedicated to hosting Self Driving Track Days, attendees have time to get up close and hands-on with the vehicles to learn about how they operate.

Live demonstration of ADAS sensors in a fully equipped test car, on the test track by TU Graz. The Series production BMW 640i has a full ADAS package, including:

  • ADAS sensors:
    • Continental ARS 308 combined short/long range radar in target and object mode
    • Mobil Eye mono camera
    • Cohda MK4 Car2X sensors
  • Reference Measurement system:
    • RTK-GPS
    • Genesys ADMA (Inertial Measurement Unit)

Find out more about the autonomous vehicle demonstrations >>

“Friendly atmosphere combined with leading technology and specialists.” Joseph Griggs, Brunel University

This full day including demonstrations and workshop is priced at only €99 for the Early Bird price until 7 July, €159 thereafter. BOOK HERE >

Top reasons to attend Self Driving Track Days

  • Mini-exhibition – free to all attendees
  • Full day of introductory to intermediate training workshops
  • Ride in an autonomous vehicle, experience the technology in action, first hand
  • Gain an understanding of the technologies that enable autonomous driving in our technology showcase, with discussions around AI, Sensor Fusion, Open Standards, Functional Safety and more
  • See demonstrations of these technologies in action in the onsite exhibition
  • Create your own customised agenda, choosing from our range of workshops for beginner to expert level
  • Put your questions to the experts to expand your knowledge of autonomous vehicle engineering
  • Meet engineers working in the sector who are keen to develop new relationships to progress driverless vehicle development
  • Take advantage of extensive networking refreshment breaks to make new connections

Find out more at www.selfdrivingtrackdays.com and book your place for just €99 before 7 July

Austria training workshops confirmed

Completing Self Driving Track Days‘ first full year, will be our flagship training for 2017, taking place in Teesdorf, nr Vienna, Austria on 28 July.

We have developed a full 1-day workshop in close coordination with experienced technologists from across the autonomous driving industry, including specialists from TU Graz, AutonomouStuff, Codeplay Software, AIMotive, Horiba Mira, and including contributions from NovAtel, Quantum,  NXP and Intempora.

Our popular “Introduction to driverless vehicle technologies” will return, alongside 3 brand-new half-day sessions.

The new workshops expand our range of training opportunities for people inside and outside the industry and complement our expanding list of learning opportunities provided by parent company Sense Media Group, the full listing for which is below.

Workshop Agenda




————————————————————————————

Book now

Book tickets here →

Devon tourist attraction aims to build driverless vehicle test facility – in miniature

April 1st 2017.

Babbacombe Model Village (www.model-village.co.uk), in Torbay, Devon, has joined forces with a driverless technology training startup in an innovative bid for grant funding from the UK Government.

The funding will be used to upgrade the road infrastructure at Babbacombe Model Village, to provide facilities to test driverless vehicle technology, as well as provide charging facilities for companies also developing small low-carbon vehicles.

“The biggest benefit”, says General Manager Simon Wills, “is that we can offer everything that the big test facilities can offer, but at 1/12th of the cost… that’s great for all the companies working on the technology, but it’s also great news for the taxpayer, and could really help us attract business from overseas.”

International appeal

The Model Village, which has stood for more than half a century, boasts more than 400 buildings, and includes village and city settings, shopping areas and a variety of types of public transport in a small space.

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, of driverless technology training company Self Driving Track Days (www.selfdrivingtrackdays.com), said he was excited about the project’s potential. “What most people across the industry recognise is that developing, and more importantly testing, driverless vehicle technology is really complicated.”

“We regularly work with companies developing technologies used in driverless cars around the world through our vehicle perception training and events, and those companies are crying out for a lower-cost approach. The great thing about a lot of this technology is a considerable percentage of it can be developed and tested on scale-model vehicles.”

“UK government is investing heavily in this area, so we are really pleased to be able to help the taxpayer achieve the best possible value for money by taking a fresh approach.”

“We are excited to be working with Simon and his team on this project and welcome feedback from companies in the supply chain on how we can work together,” concluded Alex.

“We were really pleased when we finally identified a partner that understood what we were trying to achieve”, said Babbacombe’s General Manager Simon Wills, “and the team at Self Driving Track Days has great connections across the driverless technology industry globally, a really great community of supporters in the UK, as well as the experience in going through the fund application process.”

Technology applications in the built environment

Babbacombe Model Village already boasts a variety of environments which would cost tens of millions of pounds to replicate at full scale, and has a range of support facilities which make it ideal for new startups, notably small companies looking to scale up.

“We have office space and workshops already in place to complement the planned road testing environment and unique infrastructure needed for this sort of project, alongside full accessibility support, catering, on-site design and manufacturing facilities, and a 4D theatre to provide support for the virtual testing that will also be part of the project,” said Wills.

Tourist attraction continues

Babbacombe would continue to operate as a tourist attraction if the funding bid was successful, and provide its facilities outside the main tourist season – when vehicle testing is at its peak.

Until then, it’s business as usual. “We are gearing up for a busy Easter holiday period right now, so will be looking forward to the first big crowds of the year, “ said Wills, “we’d be delighted to hear what our visitors have to say about this future project.”

Further information about the project can be found at www.selfdrivingtrackdays.com or www.model-village.co.uk

[ends]

Notes for editors:

Babbacombe Model Village (www.model-village.co.uk) is a Tourist Attraction located in Torbay, Devon. Established in 1963, the village portrays English life and culture over the last 6 decades, having been open for 54 years.  It boasts 413 buildings set in 4 acres of gardens and has an estimated population of 13,160.

Self Driving Track Days is run by Sense Media Group (www.sensemedia-events.com), a Surrey-based startup specialising in vehicle perception events and training.  Its event series include Self Driving Track Days (www.selfdrivingtrackdays.com), the world’s first events providing test track facilities for driverless vehicle technologies, specialist training, meetups on driverless and autonomous vehicles around the UK and AutoSens (www.auto-sens.com), the world’s leading vehicle perception conference.

The CAV Testing Infrastructure fund being applied for was announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget in 2016 and will be delivered by Innovate UK (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk), with policy and scope guidance from UK Gov’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (www.gov.uk/government/collections/driverless-vehicles-connected-and-autonomous-technologies), and was publicly launched with an industry briefing event on March 28th 2017.

Further enquiries

Media enquiries can be directed to:

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley: alex@sensemedia-events.com Mob: 07757 647199

Simon Wills:  Simon@model-village.co.uk

Filming at Babbacombe can be arranged with Simon for Friday 31st March. Interviews can take place in Devon (with Simon) or London (with Alex) or remotely via either with Skype, etc.

Date and Venue change for UK event

After a venue visit in December, we have decided to change the venue (and dates) of the upcoming event in the UK.  This decision reflects our need in the UK to have greater workshop capacity, as well as needs of our participants in terms of transport ease.

getlstd-property-photoThe new venue, Daytona Karting Circuit (pictured right), is located at Sandown Racecourse in Esher, Surrey.

This location is better served with public transport, and for those travelling from further afield is helpfully located half way between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports, and has better facilities for training and attendants, with catering onsite, which we expect to be our main attraction thanks to proximity to a large population base.  While the former venue we had selected had ample space, as a multi-use site, they could provide the reassurances on logistics we had requested for the dates we needed.

The new dates will be from 24-25 April.  A reminder for those of you wanting to attend – the workshop is a one day workshop, repeated twice.  If you attend on day one, you do not need to attend again!

We intend to run more comprehensive training workshops at other events and are working on CPD Accreditation for these.

Daytona, as a premier karting venue (it has hosted many professional drivers, including recently Fernando Alonso!), are also able to offer a BBQ and drinks for participants wishing to stay after the workshop, and we’ll also be offering karting on both evenings although this is subject to a minimum booking number in order to proceed.

If you have not already done so, please join the mailing list to be kept informed, and book now to guarantee your place.

European Robotics Week, Midlands IM Conference, new Meetups and more

Networking meet-ups – December 2016 and January 2017

We have got two networking meet-ups confirmed:

  • London12th December – 12-2pm. There’s still space so please book now. We had a venue in Docklands but it’s possible we’ll have to move to a venue just next door, but the date and time remain the same.
  • Brighton20th January – 12-2pm. Lots of space so please book now. This will be hosted by our friends at the Brighton Digital Catapult.

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European Robotics Week

It’s been two weeks since our inaugural event in Leicestershire and although we have already started looking at the remaining 3 events in this series and starting to plan our return to the UK in November 2017, I felt it was worthwhile revisiting one of the partnerships we have, with European Robotics Week.  I describe it as a small partnership because our inclusion was fairly late in that event’s planning and we felt that we could have done more with it – indeed next year, we hope to do much more.

This themed event week included more than 800 events in 30 countries, so we were delighted to be one of the first events on their international event calendar and also one of only a small handful in the UK taking part.  The event is delivered by SPARC, the partnership for Robotics in Europe.

SPARC is the largest civilian-funded robotics innovation programme in the world, and is a partnership between the European Commission and a trade group called euRobotics founded in 2012 by 35 organisations. Now, euRobotics represents more than 250 companies, universities and research institutions, ranging from traditional industrial robotics manufacturers to producers of agricultural machinery and innovative hospitals.

Brexit

Much has been made of the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the UK but it’s worthwhile pointing out that nobody really knows what the effect of this will be, if or when the UK leaves the EU, and whether or not the country or its industries will be excluded from any particular international programmes.

The likelihood is that whatever the political change, the UK’s strength in robotics, space, engineering and industry, as well as other STEM-influenced sectors (Science, technology, engineering and maths) which the UK holds a seat at the ‘big table’ will ensure its place in activities such as this.  Our attitude is, and will remain, that we are part of an international community and unless we are forcibly stopped from working collaboratively across all markets, that’s exactly what we will continue to do.

Robotics and Automation

Why Robotics?  It’s straightforward really, let’s say there are 2000 distinct functions performed by a driver (I think that’s about right, I saw it at a presentation at some point this year but sorry, can’t find the source), 90% of them can be automated with very well established technologies from robotics and industrial automation sector experience – it’s just a question of applying that experience and technology into the automotive sector then making it reliable and cheap enough to go into a production vehicle.

The other 10% gets trickier and starts needing to take advantage of more ‘natural’ processing, which is where AI and huge volumes of data processing comes into play… but if we can access the expertise in other sectors to accelerate the advancement of autonomous vehicles, then why not?  The markets, supply chain and expertise are far larger and more mature, so has a lot to offer.

Midlands Intelligent Mobility Conference

This week we exhibited at the Midlands IM Conference, a free event hosted at Loughborough University’s Holywell Park Conference Centre, not far from where we held our November networking meetup or our inaugural test track and training event.

The conference was organised by two groups of universities (six institutions in all) funded to run specific outreach projects: IMPART and IMPETUS. Both of these are tasked with developing links from universities into government and industry on the topic of Intelligent Mobility, and they have done great work with their extremely modest budgets.

Intelligent Mobility is not just the topic of autonomous vehicles, but also communications, infrastructure, fleet vehicles, public transport, mobility as a service and a myriad of other policy buzz words all of which have a wide variety of industries feeding in to them that are not typically on the radar of the average driverless technology junkie.

I was there with Lina Alousta, our Business Development Manager, exhibiting and networking with a wide variety of organisations active in the UK, as well as several international companies developing their own understanding of what the UK market has to offer.

As one of the only organisations with international technology awareness (primarily from our sister brand, the AutoSens vehicle perception conference – which takes place in the US and Europe) there was a lot of interest in Self Driving Track Days, our networking meetups and other various other events, products and services we are rolling out over the next 18 months both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe… so while naturally we can’t say who we talked to, we were very pleased with the event and will look forward to next years’ incarnation.

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UK Robotics Week 2017

badge5_0We are very excited to confirm that we are officially part of UK Robotics Week 2017, running from 24th-30th June 2017.

We will be running a series of events around the UK (details, venues and times tbc), open to all, and include short talks on autonomous vehicles, the state of the market and opportunities for how to get involved in driverless vehicles, as well as Q&A sessions.

We’ll be publishing further news on the events close to the time, but to save time, join the mailing list for the latest updates or check out the UK Robotics Week website.