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M. Amin Rezaei

PhD Researcher, Centre for Transport Research (CTR)
Dept. of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering


Application of Autonomous Vehicles in Highway Transport – Full and Partial Autonomy

Keywords: autonomous vehicles; user acceptance; partial autonomy; traffic safety.

Over the past decade there has been a sharp rise in the addition of vehicle sensors and technologies to make our cars safer and more efficient. More recently, there is a strong focus on a new generation of autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are capable of driving without human intervention. Aside from the impacts they may have on the car industry, they may also play an important role in transportation science. It is foreseen that they may have direct impacts on safety, traffic flow, fuel consumption, the environment, privacy of AVs, which may impact upon users and non-users in ways that are not yet fully known. It is also important to realise that this new generation of vehicles will need new technologies in the host infrastructure, new driver training and more importantly, individuals’ awareness and acceptance of such technology. Therefore, it is important to understand individuals’ opinion about the adoption of AVs.

The first stage of this research reviews different factors associated with fully autonomous vehicles in different aspects of highway transportation with a specific focus on pros and cons of AVs, and the effects they might have on individuals’ opinion on adopting them. The research to date has found that, despite the many attempts through the production of a cheaper AV, there is not yet a considerable success in this context, and the final price of an AV is still much more than what individuals can afford, which may have an impact upon the feasibility of AVs in the future. Besides, security concerns such as losing control of the AV and misuse of the vehicle by hackers, intensify the concerns of the users and manufacturers upon the feasibility of AVs. In addition, there is not yet a comprehensive agreement between authorities in different sections of the governments, industries and societies through the application of AVs on the streets, and not all individuals are happy to adopt these vehicles.

According to the current research, taking away the full control of a vehicle from the human driver is a major concern. One solution might be improving AVs by using all the available intelligent sensors and technologies, but keeping the steering wheel in car. In that case, individuals will have the benefits of AVs with a great deal of sensors, which will help them experience a safer driving, while they would have the full control of their vehicle at any time. Therefore, many concerns regarding the security, legal liability, infrastructure’s needs, manufacturing and even the costs of AVs might be solved. Through the assessment of this theory and to evaluate AVs’ safety in highway transport, the next stage of the research would focus on the application of AVs by keeping the steering wheel (partial autonomy) and modelling their interaction with pedestrians and other vehicles at intersections.



Project Supervisor: Prof. Brian Caulfield