Driverless Cars Competition

steeringwheel-250 At Right To Ride we are not adverse to technology and like to keep abreast with on-going developments in the motorcycle and transport world.

ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) have been developed more and more and the concept of driverless cars has been mooted for years.

However this form of transport has come one step closer with the UK Government announcing all the advantages that driverless cars will bring to our world including reducing congestion, lower emissions, particularly CO2, huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.

Thrown in for good measure is the mention that driverless cars will improve safety. Although for whom is not made clear and at this stage in the report we are sure that riders may have something to say about that and how motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians fit into this scenario.

At Right To Ride we are partial to a bit of perverse humour and the driverless video from Centraal Beheer Achmea, a Dutch insurance company, on ITS and self driving cars hits the spot.

It is a wonderful piece especially of the effects of ITS and self driving cars could have, as those looking on crash and swerve in amazement.  (see video below)

Driverless Cars

In the first instance, the Governments will conduct a review, “to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.”

“Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver.”

Right now through the governments driverless cars competition ,  UK cities can bid for a share of a £10 million competition to host a driverless cars trial. The government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable says that this will give, “the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.”

Of course these cities will not be starting from scratch or have the need to develop the technology, because it is already out there and a few million quid to help the cities funded by, “the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport, in partnership with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. “must be,  business-led and need to demonstrate close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, supply chain companies and manufacturers”.

Thankfully MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) which is a vehicle engineering consultancy, test and research facility,  has experience in developing driverless car solutions.  This is where Business Secretary Vince Cable tested a driverless car with the Science Minister Greg Clark.

MIRA’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer Dr Geoff Davis said, “We welcome the announcement made by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable today at our site in encouraging further advancements and UK engineering excellence. Our 10 years of experience developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defence and security as well as cooperative systems in road transport applications means we are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars.”

No Stranger To Technology

MIRA is no stranger to advancing technology on motorcycles they have tested systems for bikes and riders.

Back in 2011 that included throttle control, laser scanners, haptic handles and gloves, a vibrating seat, lights, smart helmet-cameras and radar as well as a pannier full of the electronics that analyse data gathered by the sensors and pump out warnings.

The prototypes demonstrated by MIRA back in 20011 showed it was feasible to fit such safety systems on motorbikes, MIRA speculated then that, “manufacturers would start to put them on bikes within the next 18 months to two years.” 

Where we are now with this type of technology for bikes we do not know but already systems developed for four-wheel vehicles are making it onto bikes.

In Control A Global Issue

The whole issue for the rider or driver is always fully in control and responsible for the behavior of a vehicle in traffic.

This is recognised as one of the fundamental principles of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic Safety that a driver (

The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic Safety states:

Every moving vehicle or combination of vehicles shall have a driver.

Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.

With regards mobile phones: “A driver of a vehicle shall at all times minimize any activity other than driving. Domestic legislation should lay down rules on the use of phones by drivers of vehicles. In any case, legislation shall prohibit the use by a driver of a motor vehicle or moped of a hand-held phone while the vehicle is in motion.”

At this global level the convention on Road Traffic Safety is “looked after” by WP1 Working Party on Road Traffic Safety.

“WP1 is a permanent body in the United Nations system that focuses on improving road safety. Its primary function is to serve as guardian of the United Nations legal instruments aimed at harmonizing traffic rules.”

Also at this global level there is the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations – WP29. The World Forum basically looks at the technological innovations of vehicles to make them safer and more environmentally sound.

Now it would appear that there is conflict between these two bodies in Geneva but solutions are in hand to compromise on fundamental principles.

OCIA the “Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles” which is an organization whose general purpose is to  defend the interests of the vehicle manufacturers, assemblers and importers grouped within their national federation submitted in June 2013 a document to WP29 that looks at the issue, “regarding the compatibility with the Convention of modern driver assistance systems increasingly present in modern technology road vehicles.”

Their proposal is to amend Article 8, Paragraph 5 of the convention to read:

Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.

The use of driver assistance systems which may influence the way the vehicle is driven shall not be considered contrary to the principles mentioned in paragraph 1 and 5 of this Article and paragraph 1 of Article 13, when:

a) they operate in case of emergency when the driver has lost or is about to lose control of the vehicle,
b) or whenever the intervention of these systems is consistent with the operations of the motor vehicle as expected by the driver,
c) or whenever these systems can be overridden or switched off,
d) or whenever these systems are certified in accordance with national or international legislation.

OCIA say, “All efforts should therefore be made to facilitate the widespread availability of new technologies which are aimed at improving road safety, increasing driver comfort, and reducing environmental impact of road traffic. In this respect, all measures that could result in preventing or at least hindering technical progress should be avoided.

The latest minutes published by WP1 – 68th session (24-26 March 2014) – gives an update to proposals to change the convention text.  This meeting had motorcycle representation there via the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM – Federation of International Motorcycling) and the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association

An amendment to the convention was that:

Vehicle systems which influence the way vehicles are driven shall be deemed to be in conformity with the convention in operation, construction, fitting, utilization of equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or be used on wheeled vehicles if:

Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.

Every driver of a vehicle shall in all circumstances have his vehicle under control so as to be able to exercise due and proper care and to be at all times in a position to perform all manoeuvres required of him. He shall, when adjusting the speed of his vehicle, pay constant regard to the circumstances, in particular the lie of the land, the state of the road, the condition and load of his vehicle, the weather conditions and the density of traffic, so as to be able to stop his vehicle within his range of forward vision and short of any foreseeable obstruction. He shall slow down and if necessary stop whenever circumstances so require, and particularly when visibility is not good.

A Conclusion

With regards changes to the  Road Safety Convention, the information above is a very brief synopsis of a myriad of documents.

However what is clear is that technology is being accommodated into the forty-six year old document ‘1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic Safety’ but careful consideration is being taken to make sure that drivers should still retain overall control.

Meanwhile in the UK watch out for driverless cars coming to a city near you, was that a white elephant driving past on four wheels or the technological future?

Anybody for a driverless motorcycle?

Links & Information

UK Government fast tracks driverless cars – Click Here

No To Throttle Control – on Right To Ride EU – Click Here

EVSC and ISA Motorcycle – MAG UK 2007 – pdf 142kb – Click Here

WP1 Working Party on Road Traffic Safety – Click Here

World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) – Click Here


1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic OICA proposal for WP.1 and WP.29 consideration – pdf – Click Here

Report of the sixty-eighth session of the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety – pdf – Click Here

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  1. The Vienna Convention amendment is still pending and is expected to come into effect next year. The amendment basically says that a vehicle may be under the control of a driver or of an automated system. In the case of an automated system, either the system must conform to regulatory requirements (to be) established by WP.29 or the driver must have a choice over whether to use the system (either by overriding it or switching it off). So the burden is being placed on vehicle safety regulators (rather than road traffic safety regulators) to ensure that automated driving technologies are thoroughly tested and validated.
    As for autonomous motorcycles, they are already on the drawing board. The idea has been for driverless motorcycles to patrol the roads tagging traffic violators, scanning vehicle plates for stolen or otherwise wanted vehicles, and/or to tail suspect vehicles until police officers can intervene. Hopefully these will not be manufactured by Cyberdyne Systems….

    • Thanks John for that update much appreciated!
      Would you have a link to the autonomous ideas for motorcycles?
      We have our Cyberdyne arm locked away – but then again that didn’t help the first time around 🙂

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