Loughborough University, one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research, is teaming up with Highways England on a new £1m project to ensure the country’s motorways can accommodate self-driving vehicles.
Project CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness) is being carried out in partnership with construction company Galliford Try and will look at line markings, roadworks and junctions to understand the challenges that will be faced by connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
Mohammed Quddus, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems and principal investigator on the project said: “To date there is significant investment and advancement in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
“It is, however, not known whether existing road infrastructure, which was designed for conventional vehicles, is ready for the safe and efficient operations of CAVs. CAVIAR directly addresses this challenge.
“Although CAVs are designed with existing infrastructure in mind, ensuring they are safe to operate on motorways will require evaluating how road layouts affects their operational boundaries such as their ability to sense lanes and make appropriate decisions.”
Researchers will look at whether CAVs can safely navigate the existing configurations around construction zones, whether they can successfully detect lane markings in low lighting or poor weather conditions, and whether they are able to safely merge between the low-speed local road networks and the high-speed motorway network.
Professor Quddus said: “Our vision is to deliver a world-leading experimental and simulated platform for assessing motorway infrastructure readiness level for CAV operations underpinned by the sciences of AI, statistics, optimisation and verification.
Jon de Souza, of Galliford Try, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Loughborough University on the CAVIAR project which will significantly further our understanding of the implications for highway infrastructure on a future increase in the quantity of connected and autonomous vehicles on the Strategic Road Network.
John Mathewson, Senior ITS Advisor, Highways England, said: “Our fund is all about stimulating innovation and supporting research and trials to ensure the UK remains ready to adopt cutting edge technology.
“This research will build on our understanding and give us further insight into how connected and autonomous vehicles would operate on England’s motorways and major A roads and what challenges they may face.
“It is a great example of partnership working between academia and industry. The results could help us shape how we invest in future road design and maintenance.”
Follow this link for more details and the full press release from Loughborough University.
St John Ambulance, the nation’s leading health and first aid charity, has been supporting the NHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways, including providing ambulances and trained volunteers during this health emergency.
St John has ramped up its operations to meet the demands of the NHS and communities in the charity’s biggest deployment during peacetime.
With more than 8,500 active health volunteers and an 800-strong fleet, the organisation has cared for patients by providing over 40,000 hours of ambulance support for the eight of the ambulance trusts across England, since the start of April 2020.
Those hours have been delivered predominantly by volunteers who have quickly been upskilled; everyone on the frontline of the pandemic has received additional St John Ambulance COVID-19 training which the charity developed at pace, in line with Government recommendations and clinical expertise from NHS England.
The clinical skills, resilience and compassion of St John volunteers really matter in an emergency like this, to benefit patients and support colleagues in the NHS.
As well as upskilling their existing volunteers, the organisation has seen over 1,000 applications to join and has worked with airlines on a volunteering onboarding scheme which has seen furloughed TUI and British Airways staff become St John volunteers.
Since April 1, St John Ambulance crews have been deployed from the charity’s 31 ambulance hubs across England more than 3,300 times.
Those ambulances have dealt with over 9,200 calls and provide additional capacity for the NHS to answer calls quicker. St John’s support is not just in terms of responding to calls but also freeing up capacity in the health service.
And St John Ambulance’s vehicles and volunteers wouldn’t be on the road without vital logistics and behind the scenes support. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, St John Ambulance has transformed its day-to-day operations to focus on helping tackle the virus.
In response to this national emergency, St John Ambulance established a Joint Operations Coordination Cell in London, along with Regional Operations Coordination Cells in Bristol, London, Stevenage and Ossett, running seven days a week to support the charity’s frontline operations.
In total (as of early July) St John volunteers have delivered over 130,000 hours of patient care during the pandemic.
St John Ambulance is facing extraordinary demands; its resources are stretched, and people are being tested but they will stop at nothing to help beat this virus. To find out more about the charity, including details of its emergency fundraising appeal visit www.sja.org.uk
According to DVSA figures obtained by Motorway.co.uk and reported in Fleet News, there were 5 million fewer MOT tests carried out during the April and May than there were in the corresponding period in 2019 due to the lockdown. Having submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request there were just 2,153,768 MOT tests carried out compared to 7,166,056 carried out in 2019.
According to DVSA figures available on gov.uk, the first time fail rate for cars and vans, which is reported quarterly, is consistently above 30% and was 31.7% for the last reported quarter of July – September 2019. Almost a third of those – 9.1% of all initial tests – failed with at least one dangerous fault.
With so many people taking advantage of the 6 month MOT suspension until September, brought in by the government because garages were forced to shut during lockdown, there has to be a real concern about the number of vehicles being driven around in an unsafe condition, which could total many hundreds of thousands.
In anticipation of increasing numbers of vehicles returning to the roads following the Government’s announcement on easing of Lockdown restrictions, a national campaign asking roas users if they are asking road users if they are #ReadyForTheRoad? The campaign is supported by senior road safety stakeholders including ARRM, DfT, Driving for Better Business, DVLA, DVSA, Highways England, MIB, MoD, NFCC, PACTS, Police Scotland, Road Safety Trust, TyreSafe and UKROEd.
Coordinated by the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence group, the campaign seeks to help all road users stay safe as they return to the roads. With an unknown increase in volume of traffic likely over the coming weeks, road users should prepare themselves properly before they start their journeys, whether on foot, cycle or motor vehicle.
Firstly, they should check their tax and insurance are valid, as these can easily be forgotten. While there is an exemption on MoT certificates, there is no relaxation in the law on the requirement for insurance and road tax.
Another anticipated challenge is facing up to the possibility that their road skills have not been used as regularly or for as long, which may mean they need to give themselves time to readjust to being out on the roads. Equally, they will be sharing the roads with many people in the same position and they should be prepared for any journey with extra patience. That is especially true should they feel the temptation to speed, which has been a rising issue during Lockdown.
The vehicles themselves should also be thoroughly checked before setting off. Fuel and oil levels should be appropriate for the journey ahead and TyreSafe is urging drivers to carry out essential checks themselves before they set off on their first journey.
In addition to this, research has revealed that a large number of commuters who used public transport before the pandemic are now buying a car to get them to work, as lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed.
When buying a second-hand car, the mechanical elements should most certainly be checked but attention should also be given to the tyres. Second-hand cars will usually be fitted with second-hand tyres, which can reveal much about the previous owner’s attitude to maintenance. If there are four different makes of tyre on the car, chances are it has been run on a budget, which may have led to short-cuts in other areas of maintenance.
Car buyers should also be aware that if they discover the tyres need replacing once they have bought the car, in the vast majority of cases they themselves will have to foot the bill. By checking the tyres before purchasing it, buyers at least have the option negotiate those costs in the agreed price.
It is the motorists’ responsibility to ensure their vehicle is roadworthy, however, many are not currently checking their vehicles regularly. Instead, many rely on professionals to carry out maintenance checks at annual inspections, such as when they submit their vehicle for a service or its MoT test. While there is an exemption in place for some months to come for vehicles having a current MoT there has been no relaxation on the legal expectation that the vehicle is fit for use.
The importance of checking the vehicle is in roadworthy condition is particularly acute now as many vehicles have been dormant during Lockdown. Vehicles are best maintained through usage and some aspects of their condition deteriorate more quickly when left parked for many weeks, or used only for short distance journeys. Tyres will lose their air pressure over time and harden when they are not used regularly, which can lead to sidewall cracking – a serious safety issue. A ‘flat spot’, where the tyre’s tread has been flattened due to the weight of a vehicle and/or load bearing down on it for an extended period of time, is also possible.
Det Supt Paul Keasey, head of the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence Group, commented:
“You’ve survived COVID-19, so don’t risk getting hurt – or hurting someone else – in an entirely unnecessary road crash. Keeping within the speed limit and focusing fully on the road will reduce the risks we face and the risks we pose to others, including everyone who’s now avoiding public transport and walking or cycling to work.
“If we all make sure we’re #ReadyForTheRoad as lockdown eases, we will save lives.
“Ignore the rules and the reminders and we risk seeing a rise in crashes, with the unwanted consequences they can bring.”
Simon Turner, Campaign Manager for Driving for Better Business, and Chairman of ARRM, said “The lockdown has meant that many people who normally drive for work have either been working from home or furloughed, and their vehicles may not have moved for weeks. We therefore need to ensure that both drivers and vehicles are ready for the road.”
“Drivers need to check their vehicles thoroughly before setting out. During weeks of lockdown, a small leak could have drained a fluid reservoir, while tyres could easily have lost some pressure and may have a flat spot if the vehicle hasn’t been moved. At the same time, drivers should give themselves time to readjust to more regular driving. Don’t forget to stick to speed limits, remember other road users are also coming back after a long layoff and may not be fully alert, and realise you may suffer fatigue quicker until you have fully readjusted.”
Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe Chairman said: “As people start making more use of their cars again, it’s more important than ever they check their tyres before they take a long journey. Tyres don’t like standing around, especially when they’re exposed to the climate and UV rays, which accelerates the ageing process. Ensuring there are no signs of cracking and that air pressures are correct can easily be checked but, if you’re unsure, a tyre retailer will be willing to help.
“It’s imperative drivers do carry out these checks now Lockdown has begun to ease and get themselves into the habit of maintaining their tyres on a regular basis. Stay safe – stay tyre safe.”
Today Jason Simms, Campaign Manager for TyreSafe, and Simon Turner, Campaign Manager for Driving for Better Business, will be conducting a series of national radio interviews to launch the campaign.
Update: 29th May 2020
The radio campaign was hugely successful. Interviews were broadcast across 139 radio stations with a total airtime of over 19 hours, reaching millions of listeners getting ready for the road.
Simon Turner, ARRM and DfBB, and Peter Golding, Founder and MD of FleetCheck, talk to Carly Brookfield and Howard Redwood of the Driving Instructors Association.
Among the challenges discussed are:
The government has just issued new guidance for employers, employees and the self-employed, entitled Working safely during COVID-19 in or from a vehicle.
Working in or from a vehicle includes couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
The document is to help employers, employees and the selfemployed in the UK understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with.
The guidance is extremely extensive and has been thoughtfully put together. It is available as both a webpage and a downloadable 30-page PDF document.
Over 240 deaths on the UK’s roads each year involve a drunk driver.
Following a grant awarded by the Secretary of State for Transport, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) is currently running the PACTS MEBTI competition to encourage the development of mobile evidential breath testing instruments (sometimes referred to as roadside evidential breathalysers) which meet Home Office type approval requirements.
As part of stage 2, PACTS has now awarded £105,000 to two companies, Lion Laboratories and MEDACX, to continue developing products to submit for full Home Office type approval.
PACTS Executive Director David Davies commented, “As a result of a grant from the Department for Transport, PACTS has been able to run the MEBTI (mobile evidential breath testing instruments) competition which is incentivising companies to develop products to meet the exacting technical and legal requirements of Home Office type approval. These awards of £52,500 each, to two UK-based companies, Lion Laboratories and Medacx, are rewards for their substantial R&D investment to date, and assistance with the further costs that will be involved.”
He added, “We are still probably 18 months or more away from these being available to the police but that important date seems to be drawing closer.”
ARRM is a member of PACTS and more information about this competition is available on the PACTS website.
The PACTS MEBTI competition
Since the lockdown, traffic levels have been at a much reduced level. Webfleet Solutions, the tracking and telematics provider, published the activity levels across their customer fleet which showed over a 40% drop at the end of March, and may well be lower now.
Private traffic has seen an even more dramatic reduction as people have heeded the government’s request to stay home in order to protect the NHS. Where previous the split of private/commercial traffic was around 75/25, it is now much closer to 50/50.
This lowering of traffic levels has led to a significant increase in speeds and reckless driving. Many of us may have noticed this ourselves.
Every time I go out for my one bit of exercise each day to walk the dog I see some Covidiot tearing around the neighbourhood.
Road Safety Support is an organisation that supports the police in driver prosecutions, and they said on Twitter (@road_ss) that Police forces across the UK have reported an increase in excessive speeding due to lower traffic levels.
Supt Andy Cox (@SuptAndyCox) of the Met Police also tweeted about 4 drivers they’d stopped at well over 100mph in one afternoon on the A13. This is a consistent theme day after day and the police are adamant they will deal with these offences.
I think it’s therefore essential to reinforce to any drivers still operating, that driving standards need to be maintained at the current time.
Driving for Better Business, the government-backed Highways England programme to help employers reduce work-related road risk, has collaborated with its strategic partner, FleetCheck, to create an essential ‘Transport Toolkit’ of free online resources to help fleet operators and business owners navigate the unique challenges presented during the coronavirus pandemic.
The online resources will provide essential information and guidance whether that involves drivers working from home, furloughed drivers with mothballed vehicles or essential drivers operating at maximum capacity. The resources will share valuable insights and experience to help businesses successfully operate during these times, while continuing to meet more complex corporate responsibilities with regards to driver safety and welfare. At the same time the series will help with vital preparations for the eventual return to more usual operational levels.
As part of the ‘Transport Toolkit’ Driving for Better Business and FleetCheck unveil a series of videos to address key driving for work audiences affected by the Covid-19 pandemic:
Essential Drivers – businesses operating at, or above maximum capacity. Highlighting the challenges around maintaining safety critical policies such as the management of driver fatigue as well as issues around driver recruitment, driver eligibility and sanitisation where multiple employees may be using the same vehicle
Non-Essential Drivers – those who can now work from home or have been furloughed. Highlighting the issues related to an increase in lone working, mental health and financial challenges
Business Continuity – maintaining customer relationships and keeping business as financially sound as possible. Looking at different ways of maintaining positive cashflow such as the Government’s job retention scheme, VAT deferral and supplier payment holidays, and the opportunity to focus on fleet efficiency to strip out unnecessary operational costs and return to work in a strong position
Vehicle Maintenance – lack of engineers due to self-isolation and the closing of garages. Discussing the temporary suspension of MOTs and maintenance schedules, as well as the challenges of maintaining an operational fleet, managing mileage, and the implications of mothballing non-essential vehicles
Fleet Admin & Housekeeping – importance of ensuring all staff follow established policies. Looking at the recent successful prosecution of a business for a fatal accident following its failure to follow its own fatigue management policies, as well as advice for those running a non-essential fleet to use this time to start developing stronger procedures that build additional efficiency and resilience into fleet management before returning to work
Back to ‘Normal’ – what will ‘normal’ look like in the transport world? In this video, discussed are some of the key issues fleet and transport managers will have to address over the coming months, such as the extensive checks required before reinstating mothballed vehicles, important considerations when bringing back furloughed drivers, and why the backlog in vehicle maintenance will cause significant problems
Simon Turner, Campaign Manager for Driving for Better Business, provided commentary on COVID-19, stating “We have to remain positive, deal with the challenges we face as best we can, and prepare ourselves properly for a world which, in all probability, won’t look the same as it did before. It is vitally important to ensure employers have the correct information and guidance to successfully manage both their drivers and their vehicles in a time of considerable uncertainty. This is our contribution to supporting businesses around the UK that are vital to the UK economy.”
Peter Golding, founder and Managing Director at FleetCheck, said: “We are a business that has always been very much about how best we can support our customers and that is truer than ever during a crisis event such as this. There are various ways in which we are looking at providing genuinely useful, new services for fleets but the COVID-19 Transport Toolkit is probably the most visible.”
“Working in conjunction with Driving for Better Business, we’ve taken the subjects that are being raised most frequently by our customers and produced videos available to everyone that provide pertinent advice in a fast, easy to understand format. If there are other subjects that businesses want to see tackled, we urge them to get in touch with Driving for Better Business or FleetCheck and we will do our best to produce something that answers their need.”
Mr Turner added: “Our experience over recent weeks is that there is a thirst for clarity and knowledge among fleets that are facing what I believe we can all agree are unprecedented times. These challenges are being faced now and we needed to work fast so I congratulate our two teams who have taken this project from conception to launch in just a few days.”
“The videos should be a great help but our job isn’t done yet and there will be much more detailed guidance to come as we drill down, with a range of experts, into specific issues such as managing driver fatigue and the comprehensive pre-use vehicles checks that will be required before any mothballed vehicles are allowed back on the road – something that will be vital to ensure the safety of all road users.”
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