Working with the driverless vehicle company Aurrigo, we launched a trial of driverless pods at our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton. This trial was the first one ever conducted with veterans or people with a disability, the results have huge implications for those who can no longer drive.

Not being able to drive is one of the key factors in creating a sense of isolation for veterans. To many, it's akin to losing your independence, and is one of the most significant things to impact those affected by sight loss.

Significant progress has been made in the development of autonomous vehicles (AV) in recent years, with an increasing number of trials performed to identify how AVs might function within the existing transport modal choices. With this has come increasing recognition of the multiple benefits that AVs might provide for wider society, not least reduced road congestion and pollution, safer travel, and increased fuel efficiency. Removing the need for a dedicated driver means that costs to use AVs services will be lower; in the case of private AV ownership, the requirement for a driving licence is removed. These attributes are highly advantageous for all passengers, but especially for the disabled community, and in the case of the current project, those visually impairment (VI). The use of AVs may have significant implications for the independence of this group, impacting on feelings of social and psychological wellbeing.

Not being able to drive is one of the key factors in creating a sense of isolation for veterans.
Blind veteran Mark testing 'Arthur'

In the study, hundreds of people, both VI and sighted, took part in an AV trial (‘Arthur’, named after Blind Veterans UK founder, Sir Arthur Pearson). Participants’ faces (inclusive of guide dogs) were recorded throughout the journey and all participants responded to a questionnaire about their experience during this journey. Recordings were analysed using FACS (Facial Actions Coding System).​

The pod was named 'Arthur' after our founder, Sir Arthur Pearson.

The results

Results from the survey indicated an overall positive experience for participants, and reduced anxiety from the time prior to the journey to the end of the journey. FACS analysis showed happiness as the main emotion expressed by passengers; a smaller number expressed surprise or fear, these were mainly identified early during the journey or as the result of an emergency stop.

The results from the current study shows that these PODs may offer a positive and beneficial service to visually impaired (VI) users. The benefits associated with the opportunity for independent mobility as important implications for the wellbeing of the sample population, and all individuals whose mobility may be limited by other sensory or physical impairments.

Autonomous PODs may offer a positive and beneficial service to the visually impaired.
First Research Chart Showing Arthur Participant Information
Second Research Chart Showing Arthur Participant Information

Who completed the survey?

  • 419 people took part
  • The mean age was 65.28 years
  • 46.3% were female and 53.7% were male
  • 98% of passengers were first time users
  • 0.7% had a chronic illness
  • 3% had a coordination or dexterity impairment 
  • 4% had a hearing and/or speech difficulty
  • 15% had a mobility-related disability
  • 56.3% reported having a VI
  • 43.9% considered themselves disabled

How they felt after the experience

  • 91.2% happy
  • 38.4% fear
  • 24.8% surprise
  • 2.4% disgust
  • 0.4% anger
  • 0% sadness

The results obtained from this study may be a useful contribution to making evidence-based legislation for the operation of AVs in the UK.

View the full peer reviewed publication and the full infographic summary.