13 October 2022 • 6 min

Catriona Graham

So How Do You Create a Driving Test for a Vehicle Without a Driver?

By Catriona Graham, Country Director Italy, Department for International Trade (DIT)

Chess Stetson
Chess Stetson

The future of transport is centred around the Autonomous Vehicle (AV), but modes of transport that function without any human intervention can create challenges of their own.

The UK’s Consul General and Director of the Department for International Trade in Italy Catriona Graham recently sat down with CEO and Founder of ∂RISK Chess Stetson to discuss future implications for AVs and the work that this innovative company is doing to increase the road safety of AVs globally.


Catriona: What are the main challenges that cities and car manufacturers are facing today with Autonomous Vehicles?

Chess: Car manufacturers’ biggest challenge today is proving that:

  • Their vehicle is safe in every situation possible
  • How do they know that every situation has been tested and covered?
  • Where and how do they even start to collect data?

Cities are concerned that an AV will obey the Highway Code implicitly and that this will stall traffic in many situations, as modern traffic relies on breaking the Highway Code from time to time.


Catriona: How is sustainability incorporated into AV technologies?

Chess: Self-driving cars by their nature are normally electric vehicles and thus more sustainable than an internal combustion engine. Once the majority of vehicles are AVs it may be possible that car ownership becomes a thing of the past and robot taxis will serve the public.

Traffic will therefore reduce and also car parks will become a thing of the past as an AV will go off after dropping you at work to perform other duties. It is a staggering fact that the average family car sits still for 96.5% of its life.


Catriona: What are international buyers in the automotive sector looking for right now? 

Chess: Auto manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers are looking for help in finding capability gaps right now. They realise they need to test on edge cases, but really do not know where to start. Several companies provide synthetically generated scenarios, but these are not enough to cover everything that happens on the world's roads.

∂RISK have all manner of edge cases in their comprehensive knowledge graph from meteorites in the sky blinding sensors and drivers, to planes landing in the road, to people carrying massive mirrors across the road to missing manhole covers. Could you think of all those and more?

We have also noted a large demand spike in using our edge case training functionality in the near future. This is the method whereby an AV is taught what is a hazard and what is not.

The industry standard at this time is showing pictures of hazards to an AV and identifying them as hazards. We use our real life edge cases collected from all over the world in video format and have proven that training on our edge cases gives a 6x improvement with 2x the confidence to detect high risk situations around the AV, importantly with no detriment to the central cases or normal driving in any way.

Self-Driving Car

Catriona: Who are ∂RISK, what problems are you trying to solve and how?

Chess: ∂RISK exists to enable autonomous vehicles to deal with any scenario, no matter how tricky. This will mean that we can have collision-free AVs, versatile enough to handle anything the real world throws at them.

Our business model creates software products and services allowing manufacturers and users to test, train and validate a self-driving car’s perception systems. We test to find any capability gaps and then train to plug any gaps and finally validate the system to be safe. 

We are currently delivering the world’s first true driving test for AVs as part of a 3 year grant funded project.


Catriona: Tell us about the world's first true driving test for AVs.

Chess: We are developing the world’s first true driving test for autonomous vehicles - giving the UK government confidence in the capability of AVs as they start to become more prolific in the UK. We hope to play a part in the homologation tests for AVs as they arrive in the UK. These tests are needed to complete the vehicle approval process and the certification granted by the authorities will allow it to enter the market.

This is a 3 year project that was started in 2019 and just completed in September 2022. It will provide confidence in the ability of a self-driving car prior to certifying it safe for use on public roads. Our work not only is useful for fully autonomous vehicles but can be applied to the small steps towards autonomy such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) like Automatic Emergency braking, Automatic Cruise control and Automatic Lane keep systems.


Catriona: What makes the ∂RISK’s AV technology innovative and special, and why would international companies choose UK solutions?

Chess: Rather than drive many millions of miles waiting for dangerous scenarios to occur and only then see how the vehicle reacts, ∂RISK have an important but different take on this. We collect dangerous situations from all over the world and present them to the AV in simulation.

Our sources include CCTV, Dash CAMs, Accident reporting, Insurance claims and interviews with the public asking what dangerous situations they have seen on the roads and if they have never been in near misses.

We recreate these in simulation, allowing us to make tweaks such as weather and daylight changes, vehicle types, left/right hand drive, speeds, traffic densities, other road users, and many other possible scenarios.


Catriona: The UK Government offers support for innovation and R&D. How has ∂RISK benefited? 

Chess: ∂RISK received a UK grant from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) facilitated by Innovate UK in 2019 and has been supported by Innovate UK and Innovate EDGE as well as the Knowledge Transfer Network and Zenzic testbeds throughout the duration of our project.

We have been working closely with colleagues in DIT post offices in USA, France, Germany, Italy and across Europe who have helped us find customers and offered us opportunities to advertise our work to potential customers.


Catriona: What are your top tips for businesses in the automotive industry looking for similar success?

Chess: I would recommend the following steps for businesses looking to expand in the sector 

  • Reach out to the UK Government office in your country. (The Department for International Trade is present in 34 countries in Europe alone) 

  • Use all the help offered by the UK government including funding, business help, connections, for example provided by EDGE, Innovate the KTN and Zenzic 

  • Attend sector events such as CENEX, this is the UK’s primary Low Carbon and Connected and Autonomous vehicle show and is well worth attending.  

  • The UK’s AV sector is small but powerful and backed with ample support.

Find out more about how to grow your business via the UK.