George Filip

Trust in Connected and Automated Vehicles

Internship at the Transport Systems Catapult

Recently, and by that I mean a few weeks ago (and as such this blog post is long overdue) I completed my internship at the Transport Systems Catapult. Unlike Shalaka’s  internship mine went on a slightly different route. But I suppose I should start with the beginning…

By being a part of the 2013 cohort I do not have an industry partner, therefore I had to apply and be interviewed for the position. The entire process was simple and with the help received from IMPETUS and more specifically from Nancy Hughes (Thank you Nancy!)  I was soon being interviewed by Mark Westwood and Eric Chan from the TSC on my intentions for the internship and my plans for successfully conducting it.

Unlike some other interns, I had the freedom of proposing my own activity / theme of research and as such I chose something that I was really curious about as well as something that would help me develop additional skills.

After long considerations we decided that the best approach would be to split my internship in two blocks in order to have access and be a part of more trials. For this reason I had to move to Milton Keynes for a long period of time.

Being a part of Horizon CDT means always being surrounded by people doing different types of ethnography and ethnomethodologically informed ethnography (being Andreas‘ flatmate for more than a year as well as very good friends with Panos, made me, against my wishes, a part of numerous and very long conversations about it), but at the same time it presented me with a good chance and some understanding of the benefits (and pitfalls) of conducting observational studies in real life situations. Therefore, my proposed internship project involved the observations of pedestrian interactions with the automated pods that were/are trialled in Milton Keynes.

Despite my conversational knowledge about observational studies, prior to arriving in Milton Keynes I had to read a few books and research articles on how to successfully conduct ethnography “in the wild”, and what were the best ways of putting it into practice.

As mentioned above, my internship was different to Shalaka’s since it was split into two blocks. I also had more freedom, from a schedule point of view, since my work involved mostly going outside and observing the normal interactions of pedestrians along the testing route for the automated vehicles. This was done at different times of the day in different locations, and so involved a lot of walking, which at least benefited my general health/shape.

When weather allowed for it, I was accompanying the automated pods along the trial route in my double role of test marshal and researcher/observer/stare-at-every-passer-by. During the tests I was trying to interact with as many pedestrians as possible and inquire about their levels of trust in the technology, their acceptance and general opinions (when not avoiding the cameras of those that were trying to snapchat for as long as possible the passing by pod).

Trial picture 2


For each of the internship blocks I had the support of two different pairs of mentors (Mark Westwood and Eric Chan for block one and Alan Nettleton and Dave Barnett for the second block), and besides the regular contact with them I have managed to meet a few very interesting people and even make some friends.

One of the benefits of conducting my internship in two blocks almost a year apart was that it allowed me to attend both Imagine Festivals and Conferences (2016 and 2017), the initial one just presenting the work that UoN and IMPETUS are doing in the area of Intelligent Mobility, while the second attendance allowed me to have one of my own flyers presenting my work for the TSC.

Flyer TSC


Another beneficial “side effect” of having done the internship in two blocks is the fact that I managed to secure a placement with UNIVANCE (in the in-between break), looking into more technical and business aspects of automated vehicles.

As a short conclusion, I would recommend for anyone to do an internship, as in my case it allowed me to apply and learn/put in practice a new research method, and gave me the chance of experiencing first hand a non-academic work environment as well as having the immense benefit of taking me out, for a period of time, from the PhD environment and the “I-should-be working” recurrent thoughts (regardless of day and time).



Public engagement

One of the most interesting ways of engaging with the public, although not as direct as a talk or presentation is by writing an article. It is a good way of relaying information, in an accessible way, to high numbers of members of the public.

Following the highly publicized Tesla accident from 2016  I took the decision of pitching an idea for an article to The Conversation as I felt that I can bring to light a different aspect that was not considered in mainstream media when talking about that specific case.

After creating an online account, I followed the on screen guidelines and sent a short description of my idea. The entire process was easy to follow and is presented in the picture below.


Shortly after pressing the submit button,  I received a phone call from one of the editors from the Technology section and was asked for a more in detail explanation of what exactly I wanted to write about and how it was different from anything else that was being published. Immediately after the phone call I was invited to write the full article. Numerous edits and back-and-forths between myself and the editor, we finally agreed on a final version for the published article. For this purpose the online system for writing articles that The Conversation has in place was of real use.

One of the main pain-points when writing for the general public, from a researcher / academic point of view is how to make the information be understood by everyone, how to use a language that is easily accessible to everyone. In order to help with this, The Conversation offers a system that shows their writers how easily comprehensible their writing is, by making sure that specialized words and phrasings are not used.

The entire process was a bit more complicated and time consuming than initially expected, but very educational at the same time. Just for the title of the article, 6-7 emails with ideas were exchanged, in order to agree on a title that can both relay the content of the article but at the same time draw attention towards it.

Once the article was published and the “marketing” aspect of the article had begun (tweeting, re-tweeting, sharing etc.), one of the most interesting parts of the publishing process was checking the number of views / shares for the article. For this purpose The Conversation offers a series of interesting tools, which adds to the excitement of publishing something; having the ability to actually quantify the reach of your article and ideas.


Interestingly enough, and a bit unexpected was the stress related to how the article was going to be received: was it going to be considered useless, wrong, not on point? (past tense)

Engagement with the comments section of the article, as well as online through Twitter, Facebook etc., with the public that was commenting on the article was essential, as well as giving the possibility to fill in the gaps of information in the article that were omitted due to the word limit.

The article itself was republished in over 30-40 platforms such as: Yahoo news, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, TechCrunch etc., as well as translated in 2 other languages, after receiving my permission. Furthermore, since its publication, I have been contacted by researchers from other universities that were interested, or working on the topic that either requested more information on my work or simply offered advice.

Sometime after the entire process was completed and with the help of being one of the winners of the IMexchange challenge, I was contacted by the New Scientist and invited to be interviewed on a topic related to my PhD and area of research.

Writing articles for the general public can lead not only to higher exposure, but also makes it easier to get in contact with researchers that are looking at similar things and even raise your profile in the field, which can in return lead to different opportunities.

BMW Summer School 2015 Connected Vehicles Driving on Digital Roads

The BMW and EURECOM Summer School, hosted at Lake Tegernsee in Bavaria, was the first summer school that I have attended since the start of my PhD. It proved to be a very beneficial experience for the development of my research for a series of reasons that I will talk about in this blog post.

View from the venue

The event was dedicated to researchers from a variety of areas such as:

  • Vehicular cloud architectures & services
  • Human Machine Interfaces / Interactions
  • Dependable communication technologies (such as DSRC, LTE/LTE-A, pulse radio, visible light)
  • Scalable on-board electronics
  • Data semantics, data fusion, classification & re-construction
  • Sensor and actuator integration, environmental perception & vehicular control
  • Cognition and driver behaviour
  • Security and privacy
  • Business and societal changes, new innovative applications based on autonomous vehicles
  • Legal framework and socio-economic acceptance

The format of the summer school was comprised of keynote presentations from a variety of academics and executive-levels speakers, ideation workshops and pitch training, moderated panel discussions as well as PhD poster presentations.

Among the keynote presentations Dr. Wieland Holfeder Engineering Director & Site Lead of Google Germany GmbH, gave a presentation on the Google driverless cars program and the future plans of the company, which lead to interesting discussion on the theme of future shared mobility and the decay in personal ownership of vehicles; Dr. Grosspietsch from BMW Group Research and Technology presented the Highly Autonomous Driving programmes that BMW is working towards. Both of these presentations gave all of us, the participants, the chance to understand how both the industries (IT and Car Manufacturers) are approaching the research necessary in developing successful autonomous vehicles. Other presenters focused on the technical necessities and developments that would allow the implementation of CAV’s on the road, as well as Connected mobility services and Business development for mobility services in the context of connected and autonomous vehicles.

One of the most interesting aspects of the summer school was given by the evening panel that had as a theme Challenges in Future Urban Development, as well as the fireside chat with Top-Management from BMW and a prominent Executive Consultant, which gave all of us the chance to ask questions and discuss the current state of the industry with decision making figures from industry and research.

During moderated PhD challenge group discussions and idea creation workshops, innovative visions and applications, conceptual, sociological and business changes were discussed in relation to the expected rise of fully-connected vehicles in the Internet of Things. During these sessions all the participants were split into groups, based on specific themes and had to create business ideas that could help shape or create the market. Training was provided regarding the “pitching” aspect of the final idea that was presented in front of a panel of “investors”. The iterative process of gathering ideas from all the members of the group , combining the ideas and finally deciding on which idea is worth being taken further, provided me with the opportunity to experience working as part of a group with people from various disciplines but all  with a common goal.  During the final stage of the ideation process, we had to create a presentation of our “product”, receiving help from a graphic designer that tried to create visual representations of our future products as well as receiving dedicated training on pitching our idea from an expert affiliated with UnternehmerTUM. The presentation of the final products were then evaluated based on the pitch presentation by members of the TechFounders Accelerator Program. The ideation workshops exposed all the participants to the process of developing, planning and presenting / promoting a product, which was an invaluable experience to be taken from the Summer School.

One of the last points for the summer school was that it provided me with the opportunity of doing my first ever Poster Presentation of my research. Before the actual presentation, each participant of the summer school had to give a 1 minute pitch/advertisement about their poster and why people should come and see it. Presenting a poster as well as checking out the posters of other participants, provided a good chance to expose my research interests as well as find out about what people from the same area of research focus are working on, the stages of their PhD’s , their research methods and future plans. Furthermore, poster presentations give the chance to the participants to expose in a more informal way their research by engaging with the audience in a more direct and personal manner. Answering their questions as well as discussing about similarities and differences in work, as the audience, although working on the same general area of research, all came from different backgrounds with different topics of interest offering different perspectives, sharing ideas and even creating an environment for future collaborations and sharing of results. The poster presentations offered me , in the end, the opportunity to learn more about the complementary parts of the research area that I am investigating, the engineering research that was being conducted, the computer science investigations and developments in the field of driverless cars as well as the social / human centered approaches related to the adoption and design of autonomous vehicles.

Poster presented

Besides the academic and training aspects of the Summer School there were also a lot of social events in the beautiful area of Lake Tegernsee, networking opportunities with industry and academia experts as well as with the other PhD students, all coming from a multitude of backgrounds and cultures.

The Summer school was completed with a trip to downtown Munich and a visit of BMW Welt & BMW Museum for those that wanted to register for it.


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