Integrating automated vehicles into the transport system

Automated vehicles are no longer just a science fiction vision of the future; long term trials have been operating around the globe, and paid services for the general public are now available in certain locations.

Connected Places Catapult has been involved in trials of various types of automated vehicles (AVs) for many years, including in the Milton Keynes 5G Create project with AVs from Aurrigo and teleoperated vehicles from Imperium Drive operating at Stadium MK and in the surrounding areas.

These trials provide useful learnings for the technology development, on user engagement and the specifics of operating in the trial area. For the MK5G Create project, Connected Places Catapult explored some of the future implications of an automated shuttle providing a bus-like service. 

As we look towards these fully-fledged services in the UK, we need to consider the local authorities who will potentially play a key role in the success of automated vehicle services for their local communities.

Local authorities will in some capacity be involved as: 

  • A key stakeholder in the procurement of automated vehicle services for integration with their local transport system, either directly or via other arrangements 
  • Local traffic authority responsible for an efficient road network which includes automated vehicles. 

To ensure AVs provide an efficient and integrated service to a population, local authorities need to engage with developers and operators of such future services. 

Operational Design Domain 

Knowing the conditions under which an automated driving system is designed to operate – known as the Operational Design Domain (ODD) – is crucial to safely deploying an AV service. Automated vehicles should be designed to handle reaching the limit of their ODD as safely as reasonably possible (see the SafeMRX project) however it is still better to avoid this situation wherever possible. A vehicle reaching the limit of their ODD would also be detrimental to the service it is providing as well as potentially impacting other road users. 

Operating conditions under which a given driving automation system or feature thereof is specifically designed to function, including, but not limited to, environmental, geographical, and time-of-day restrictions, and/or the requisite presence or absence of certain traffic or roadway characteristics.”
The term Operational Design Domain (ODD) is formally defined in SAE J3016

Approaches to formalising ODD definition have been a focus for standardisation efforts such as BSI PAS 1883 and those of SAE International. An ODD definition can be used for many purposes, not all of which require the same level of detail and presentation of information. 

Connected Places Catapult has explored the different requirements for ODD definition at different stages of AV service development below.

MK5G Create Operational Design Domain Identification
File Type: pdfFile size: 4.2MB

Examples of where an ODD definition could be used and the implications for presenting information are: 

  • For the feasibility study, the assessment needs to be economical and efficient. ODD requirements need to be expressed in a way which can easily be compared to public (or easily purchased/collected) data. 
  • The detailed pre-deployment assessment probably requires the most thorough understanding of ODD. Because the outputs of this step will be used for making decisions which affect safety, it is essential that the process and its inputs (e.g. data sources) are robust. This step requires a technically precise and detailed ODD definition.  
  • During operations, decisions need to be straightforward and easy to manage. Decisions on how to keep the vehicle inside the ODD will be made by automated systems and or/operator staff (e.g. safety drivers or control centre staff). Documentation provided to any human decision-makers should be clear and site-specific. For example, instead of defining the exact road and traffic conditions where operating in poor weather is acceptable, sections of the route could be categorised based on their operating rules.  


At the feasibility stage when new areas are considered for AV services, the ODD of a given vehicle is used to filter out areas or routes that are not suitable. Alternatively, unsuitable routes or types of routes that are still of particular interest can be identified to form a specification to drive development or for different AVs to be compared with. 

Connected Places Catapult has leveraged Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) tools and techniques to explore the use of ODD in feasibility assessments. An interactive demonstration of the power of GIS in this application can be found here.


At the operations stage, supporting the management of an efficient/integrated connected autonomous vehicle service requires ODD awareness by a local traffic authority, as well as robust communication implementations. 

An example to highlight how ODD awareness may impact a local traffic authority relates to road markings. Currently road maintenance would include routine inspection to ensure road markings fulfil their purpose. Two different AVs – A and B – may have completely different technical approaches for ensuring good lane discipline, so they could use different sensors, sensor types or detection algorithms. Each approach may have different implications on the requirements for road markings.  

If markings on a road section have deteriorated such that the section is no longer within vehicle A’s ODD it doesn’t necessarily follow that vehicle B cannot operate on that section of road. ODD awareness would enable a local traffic authority to provide relevant situational information to vehicle A to improve strategic decision marking while vehicle B proceeds without an impact on the service it is providing.

A lack of ODD awareness could produce an overly cautious approach with vehicle B re-routing unnecessarily or an overly permissive approach resulting in vehicle A reaching the edge of its ODD and having to safely stop. Both approaches would produce sub-optimal journeys for passengers and could impact other road users.  

A highly connected urban environment would support making informed decisions about AV services in operation and 5G presents an opportunity to realise such an urban environment. More information on concepts for achieving this can be found in the report below.

MK5G Create Dynamic Operational Design Domain Management
File Type: pdfFile size: 6.2MB


Local authorities have a key role to play in ensuring AV services are efficiently run and integrate into the local transport system for the benefit of the local community. By engaging and collaborating with AV service developers and future operators now, local authorities can build the knowledge and experience to play this role well. Connected Places Catapult has supported local authorities through collaborative research and development projects in the AV field for several years and will look to build on this going forward.