How will we be driving in 2030? This question is currently making waves among politicians and the general public. In addition to the engine type, the question pertains to digitization of transport in particular. At the European level, the BRAVE research project focuses on what drivers can expect from increasingly automated vehicles.
Seven countries, eleven partners, one goal - to bridge the gap between what the driver requires from an automated vehicle and what is actually on offer. In addition to five European countries, California and Australia are also involved to ensure a larger-scale transfer of knowledge. The German partners are the University of Stuttgart’s Fraunhofer Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management (IAT), the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg's Social Sciences Institute (IfeS).
“BRAVE” stands for “BRidging Gaps for the Adoption of Automated VEhicles”. The project won EU approval due to its objectives, which, according to the two IAT researchers Nicole Fritz and Sven Bischoff are to: “reveal niggles, weak points and improvement potential in relation to driverless vehicles and specifically from a user perspective”. To this end, the IfeS will oversee a large-scale survey involving hundreds of citizens from the seven participating countries. “We want to explore the desiderata of the survey subjects and, as far as possible, to implement them in prototypes”, Fritz explains. The ultimate objective is to arrive at a holistic view that recognizes the technical challenges whilst taking account of end-user concerns.
From Driver to “Drivenger”
Fritz, Bischoff and a colleague from the Fraunhofer Institute are responsible for designing and developing innovative interior and cockpit concepts. The overriding question for the Stuttgart-based researchers is how people will interact with automated vehicles. What are the requirements of drivers who are increasingly becoming “drivengers”, i.e., a cross between driver and passenger? How will automated vehicles interact with so-called VRU’s (vulnerable roads users, i.e., pedestrians or cyclists)?
To ensure that drivengers react appropriately, the cockpit of the future must be intuitive and the relevant driver tasks easily learnable and applicable to many situations. Contemporary technologies could lead to a situation in which drivers gradually get out of the habit of braking because the vehicle takes on the task itself. But, what would happen if the system failed to recognize an obstacle? “Then I might brake too slowly”, says Fritz. So, in a further step, it will be necessary to discover what the driver has detected and what not, for, if he or she is not completely focused on the task in hand, then the vehicle would have to warn him of her in good time. The phase in which problems of this kind and others are identified is currently underway and will be followed by another phase in which those issues will be identified, which can be addressed in the context of the project. By May 2020, when the EU project is due to finish, Fritz and Bischoff hope to be able to present some initial approaches to potential solutions, which will support the rapid and safe introduction of automated vehicle such that customers and other road users will see them as a positive thing.