When plans for the state-of-the-art Driverless Cars were first mooted, there were plenty of raised eyebrows and an equal number of genuine sceptics. However, the plans went ahead with experts claiming that driverless car would be an important step for road safety.

They could take over driving on roads, just like autopilots take control of airplanes, while the pilot often has nothing to do but just sit and wait for landing. There would be fewer car accidents and road fatalities.

Experts also believe cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine.

Five years on and four sites in England have been earmarked for trials of driverless cars. The process will begin in the New Year. The trials have been made possible with £10m of funding from Innovate UK, the government’s Technology Strategy Board.

Greenwich in London, Bristol, plus Milton Keynes and Coventry will run formal trials that will last between 18 and 36 months from January next year.

According to Innovate UK, testing driverless cars in a real-world environment will lead to greater levels of understanding of how the vehicles will fit into everyday life.

Milton Keynes and Coventry will share the UK Autodrive programme, which involves Ford, Jaguar Land Rover as well as a number of universities and engineering consultancies.
They will test self-driving cars on real roads as well as lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised areas in Milton Keynes.

The Gateway project, in Greenwich, will test automated electric shuttles buses and robotic valet parking, whilst in Bristol, the insurance implications of driverless vehicles will be explored by the Venturer consortium, who aim to deepen understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for the economy.

The programme will also look at how cars cope with the city’s challenging terrain and how they are received by the public.

One of the focuses of the trial will be developing infrastructure to best interact with the cars.

In an interview with the BBC, Tim Armitage, of engineering consultancy, Arup, said;
“Our plan with the practical demonstration phases is to start testing with single vehicles on closed roads, and to build up to a point where all road users, as well as legislators, the police and insurance companies, are confident about how driverless pods and fully and partially autonomous cars can operate safely on UK roads.”

The key aims of the trials

  • To establish the UK as the global hub for the research, development and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies.
  • To carry out safe testing and to ensure the public have confidence in that technology.
  • To gather information from the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.

If you want to know more on the topic you may find the following articles interesting reading.

The Engineer – The Drive for Autonomy
The Institute of Engineering & Technology – Autonomous Vehicles

What do you think of the idea of Driverless cars and will you be happy to see them being trialled on our roads?

Here at PRV Engineering, we are always keen to work with the motor industry and would be keen read your thoughts.

Image Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

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