Department for Transport (DfT): Public Dialogue – Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

  • Client

    Department for Transport (DfT)

  • Sectors

    Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Central Government

  • Services



The Department for Transport commissioned a public dialogue, underpinned by deliberative research methods, to develop understanding of public acceptability towards Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), and how, why, and in what circumstances their acceptability increases or decreases. Traverse was appointed in summer 2018 to design, deliver and report on a set of dialogues with members of the public in five locations across the UK.


To enable us to track any changes in attitudes among participants the dialogues comprised several different methodologies. The methodology was also conducted in line with Sciencewise Guiding Principles, in which public dialogues are viewed as a process during which members of the public interact with scientists, stakeholders and policy makers, to ensure issues, concerns and aspirations can be explored from different perspectives. Public dialogue should also include the possibility for insights to inform policy involving science and technology issues.

Pre-programme survey

Participants completed a pre-programme survey as part of the recruitment process. The questionnaire consisted of closed questions for ease of use, and covered aspects of the Sciencewise dialogue objectives. We used the data collected, along with the demographic and attitudinal information we collected through the recruitment process, to ensure mixed groups in the workshops and to support our analysis.

Involvement of subject-matter specialists

Traverse convened an additional group to provide specialist expertise throughout the process. This group comprised industry experts, academics, and other relevant bodies, covering a range of experience and interest in CAVs. Specialists were recruited early-on in the dialogue process, with the option of participating throughout, or at certain points.

Members of the Specialist Group were invited both to provide comment on the dialogue materials, and to attend events with participants, allowing members of the public to interact with subject-matter specialists, to learn and explore together.

Delivery of dialogue events

The dialogues were held in 5 locations across the UK; Abergavenny, Glasgow, Leeds, Millbrook, and Milton Keynes. 158 people were brought together across these locations, for three workshops spread over 3 months – one evening, one full day, and one half-day.

CAVs Public Dialogue.jpg

Participants had the opportunity to interact and discuss the topic with policy makers and specialists from industry and academia. The same discussion activities were conducted in all five locations. In three of the locations, some participants also had the opportunity to experience self-driving technology by riding in a simulator, a self-driving pod or a highly-automated car.



Data was also collected through 20 telephone interviews conducted after Workshop 3. At the third workshop, we asked for 5 volunteers from each location to be interviewed a week later. The telephone interviews were 20 minutes long.

Analysis of feedback from workshops

Over the three workshops we collected both qualitative and quantitative data, that was both attributable and non-attributable. Attributable and non-attributable data were processed and analysed separately. Interview data was also processed separately. All data was captured with the relevant workshop location, to enable analysis of differences between areas.

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Quantitative data

All attributable, quantitative data from the workshops was analysed against demographics, attitudinal and qualitative data. Voting data was used to quantitatively analyse changes in opinions over the course of the dialogue events and to explore demographic differences. Quantitative data was analysed in Excel.

Qualitative data

We coded qualitative data into different high-level themes (using a methodology based in grounded theory technique) in our bespoke analysis tool – Magpie. We considered both stated attitudes and also data regarding how participants express their views.

We coded data at sentence level using an agreed code frame, adding sub-categories where necessary.


CCAV, the policy recipients of the project outputs hailed the dialogues as “ground-breaking” and a “world-first”. The report was published on October 10th 2019 and will be used to:

  • Inform the development of the Government’s strategy and regulations in relation to CAVs which include how the different levels of autonomy are regulated, road technology improvements and road safety legislation.
  • Inform the development of the technology itself (including government-funded projects), helping to realise any perceived benefits of CAVs (such as improved road safety) as well as mitigate against any potential disbenefits (such as cybersecurity fears).
  • Plan future engagement and awareness-raising on connected and automated vehicles using language that is familiar to the general public.
  • The following are key implications that emerged from findings:
  • People see the possible benefits of CAV technology. Their concern is that the potential would not be realised unless the technology is well-governed, and that poor governance might mean inequalities of accessibility increase and/or safety deteriorate.
  • People see the possible pitfalls. They recognise that while CAVs could be cheaper and more accessible, they could also be more expensive and less accessible.
  • Safety was a primary concern, and a multi-faceted issue, incorporating reliability, road safety, and personal safety.
  • The issues are not just economic ones. People are aware that the changes to society would be profound.
  • People are worried about the transition period. Many participant concerns focused on a world in which there was a mixture of CAVs and current vehicles on the road.
  • People appreciated the opportunity to talk about such a potentially big social change.



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