Our next project feature from this year’s FTVG initiative examines an approach to developing a road scoring index for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) headed up by Lawrence Penn, Ramit Raunak and Emma Leworthy.
With more Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) on the horizon, there is a need to start making specific considerations for a new category of road user. The development of a Road Scoring Index will assess the readiness of the current road network from the perspective of CAVs to help ensure that vehicles are operating in optimally safe environments.
Lawrence Penn, a transport modelling graduate at WSP outlined his inspiration for the project;
“I have been really interested in various aspects of CAVs, ranging from societal attitudes to practical applications. I’d seen it widely reported that CAVs rely on pretty high standards of infrastructure to operate safely, and I knew from my own experience of driving that many roads would be far from ideal. I therefore wanted to find a way of assessing the suitability of the road network for CAVs.”
This project builds on an idea suggested by Dr Zia Wadud at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds to provide a better understanding of how the application of an index score can provide insights into CAV readiness. The group chose to focus their analysis on a pilot area in Leeds.
Emma Leworthy, a senior transport planner at WSP, echoed Lawrence’s desire to expand this area of research;
“I’ve been interested in the impact of CAVs throughout my career. As a transport modeller, I was initially drawn to how their behaviour could be suitably represented in a modelled network, but my focus has expanded to consider the importance of infrastructure in making the next step to safely introducing CAVs to the highway network.”
The FTVG initiative helped Emma and Lawrence link up with Ramit Raunak, a research associate in electric mobility at CRDF, the research and advisory arm of the CEPT University in Gujarat, India.
“I came across to FTVG research competition through LinkedIn. FTVG gave me an amazing opportunity to hear some of the great minds from mobility industry. The CAV Road Scoring Index offered me some excellent experience of working on an autonomous vehicle project with a wide network of colleagues.”
The international group submitted their proposal towards the end of 2020 and were successfully awarded funding in early 2021.
With funding secured, the group found that it opened several doors to help expand their research.
“FTVG lets us push the project much more widely to reach more experts in the field, and it will allow us to do things like host workshops and access new datasets. Furthermore, having a team of talented and passionate people all working on the project provides a much wider knowledge base, with international perspectives in the mix too”, said Lawrence.
The group have set up a webpage to host their research activities and hope to broaden their understanding of how CAVs navigate the physical and digital road environment and feed these into the scoring index.
Emma highlighted that an important consideration is getting the views from a wide pool of experts and stakeholders to inform the scoring approach;
“Once we’ve spoken to technical experts, we will start to engage with local authorities, asset managers and road safety groups, to understand their views on the benefits and barriers to CAVs. We are also liaising with traffic survey companies who collect data on the quality of road infrastructure.”
Based on feedback from their consultation, the group hope to map CAV readiness across their pilot study area to illustrate how scaling this approach elsewhere could become a useful strategic asset management tool which can inform local authorities of the readiness of their road network for CAVs.
“We hope that by developing a framework to assess the quality of the road environment, we can target where CAVs could be introduced safely and effectively. Where roads are less suitable, it will help transport professionals consider potential mitigation measures; such as reducing vehicle speed, or building new infrastructure”, explained Lawrence
As well as expanding an emerging field of research, the group also reflected on how taking part in the FTVG initiative has benefitted them.
Ramit sees it as a route to further research and development;
“I’m currently working on various projects to promote the clean energy transition in the mobility sector. Working on CAVs is a step forward towards my vision to work on transforming mobility for a sustainable future. As our project is focused on shared mobility, I hope to take away something to enhance CAV research in India.”
For Lawrence, it offered both a professional development and networking opportunity;
“It’s an excellent excuse to throw yourself into a subject you are passionate about. At this early stage my career, taking part in FTVG has helped me experience aspects of project management that I would not have otherwise seen on project work. It has granted us networking opportunities with a range of influential people that we wouldn’t necessarily encounter in our day to day work.”
Emma also saw the initiative as an opportunity to try out something different.
“FTVG has given me the chance to engage with experts in this field who I wouldn’t usually meet within my day to day project work. I consider safely providing for active modes alongside traffic to be a key part of my role and I’m looking forward to taking my learning from this project into designs and advice for clients in future schemes.”
Along with the four other project groups, the CAV Road Scoring Index will be published on www.ftvg.co.uk when the initiative concludes for the year this summer.