Helping put safety first in the mobility revolution
Mike Szczepanski, Senior Business Development Manager for Transport highlights how designing efficient surface-based Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) can help the UK on the journey to achieving NetZero.
The Future of Mobility was one of the four 'Grand Challenges' named under the UK Government's Industrial Strategy to help improve people’s lives, the country’s productivity and to contribute to NetZero goals. Here Mike Szczepanski, Senior Business Development Manager for Transport, explains how the Met Office is helping to shape a mobility future by making surface-based Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and other unmanned transport types, such as aviation and marine, as safe as possible.
Humans are responsible for the safe operation of conventional vehicles. They use their intuition while driving and draw on their experience to make decisions. But the more assisted or automated these operations become, the more responsibility is transferred from the human to a machine and/or Automated Driving System (ADS).
The machine or ADS may control steering, speed, braking, navigation, hazard avoidance and more. This throws up new challenges. How can we be sure the vehicle system is sensing its surrounding environment adequately? And how can we know that it will then make decisions that are safe enough?
We have been collaborating with industry, regulators and academia to understand the weather challenges. With this enhanced understanding we can support safe deployment and eventual operation of Future Mobility.
Having a sufficient understanding of the weather challenges is critical for the safe deployment and eventual operation of Future Mobility. For CAVs, we consider:
Atmospheric weather – this includes temperature, precipitation, fog, dust, solar radiation. Atmospheric weather can all degrade vehicles sensors either when looking through the atmosphere or by affecting the sensor windows. It also determines road surface weather and space weather.
Road surface weather – this concerns the conditions that influence surface friction or grip including road surface temperature, spray, standing snow, water and ice.
Space weather – created by the solar winds that carry high-speed particles towards the Earth from the sun. Space weather is capable of disrupting communications and navigation.
Our work providing impartial weather impact advice on CAV perception systems – as well as managing the consequences of the inherent uncertainty when measuring or forecasting the weather when vehicles are on the road – has seen us become increasingly active in CAV development.
One particularly influential area is our involvement in the Zenzic UK and Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030. We are now recognised as a CAM (Connected and Automated Mobility) Creator for the Roadmap. Part-funded by Government and industry, it is a tool to help identify the pathway to safe and successful CAV deployment. It draws together an ecosystem of businesses, academia, investors and decision-makers to help develop a global connected and self-driving sector predicted to be worth £907 billion by 2035.
Our work for the UK Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) is another example of our growing influence on shaping CAM's evolution. Self-driving vehicles need an entirely new type of test for the system that replaces the human driver. Safety-critical applications rely on sensors. So, understanding how they perform – and importantly when they may fail – is critical for avoiding serious safety issues later on.
In collaboration with the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) and on behalf of CCAV, we are in the process of developing a sensor assurance framework. This focusses on the reliable testing of CAV sensor performance and degradation under different weather conditions. We have recently concluded ‘the study part’ of the framework. This proves the theoretical concept and creates an evidence base that can be utilized going forward.
Eventually, the framework will play an important role in supporting testing for CAV validation, safety assurance and assimilation right across the UK. The combination of our roles – the UK’s National Metrology Institute and National Meteorological Service - make it the perfect partnership to provide a traceable framework for assuring CAV performance in all weathers.
While considerable work has already gone into developing the technologies that underpin CAV systems, evolution of the regulatory landscape is still at a relatively early stage. Following our work with the NPL and CCAV, we were invited to become a steering group member for the British Standards Institute (BSI) CAV standardisation programme. This supports the safe deployment of connected and automated vehicles under Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 1883.
The PAS 1883, 'Operational Design Domain Taxonomy for Automated Driving Systems', defines a common language (or taxonomy) for describing the operating conditions, such as the environment and driving situations, an automated vehicle has been designed to function in. We've been able to contribute substantially to the meteorological sections of the PAS helping to raise the level of the importance of the natural environment within the taxonomy as a whole.
Our early BSI work was chaired by a representative from the Warwick Manufacturing Group, which is part of the University of Warwick and a good example of our extensive engagement with academia. It provided a recommendation for the standards treatment of rainfall, as well as visibility. The coming years will require extensive additional input to address the full complexities of the CAV weather challenge.
Beyond our work with BSI, we've also submitted evidence to the Law Commission of England and Scotland. This is for its ongoing review of the legal framework of automated vehicles. We have also contributed our insights on the challenges of space weather and the impact of terrestrial weather on CAV operations to the Department for Transport's consultation on Automated Lane Keeping Systems.
Our core purpose at the Met Office is 'to help people make better decisions and thrive', this is especially relevant when it comes to safety-critical industries.
While it's true that individual sectors in mobility face some specific challenges, the core trends of transport automation transcend transport modes. That's why a successful mobility future hinges on a complete transport network. It should perform as one, rather than as separate components working within it. For example, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is likely to use the same or similar type of sensor that a car will use. It will also face similar interference from weather sources as a car. However, as it operates in the air it is critical to take into consideration additional challenges. For example, wind flow around structures that doesn't impact surface transport vehicles.
Met Office input into mobility doesn’t stop at CAVs. For example, our involvement in an innovative project, providing the necessary weather information and guidance to ensure the safe and efficient operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
The Distributed Beyond Visual Line of Sight project (DBAS) is funded by the Future Flight Challenge, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation. Led by sees.ai the project aims to develop and test a remotely operated drone system for industrial and urban environments. We will work alongside 15 other partners from the aviation and industrial world, including NATS and BAE Systems.
We have also provided weather data to the Marine Coast Guard Agencies (MCAs) and the Marine Autonomy Regulation Lab (MARLab) data platform. The objective was to address issues that marine autonomous systems and manufacturers face through access to assured data that can safely support autonomous operation.
The role of weather and climate information in the transport sector is changing rapidly. Over the past two to three years we have continued to ensure that meteorology is considered a vital ingredient in the safe deployment and operation of new transport technology. There will be many turns yet in the road ahead. However, we will continue to maximise our deep meteorological resources and expertise to be at the heart of efforts to deliver all desired outcomes, helping improve people’s lives, country's productivity and to contribute to net zero goals.
Interested in knowing more about Met Office support for mobility? Get in touch.
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