It was reported by the Sunday Times this weekend that the government is planning to amend the law to allow driverless cars to be tested on public roads, allowing the roll-out of self-driving vehicles to take a big step forward.
Experts predict that this technology, although in its early stages, could be available on a commercial scale in around 20 years and would cut fuel bills for motorists by improving driving style and optimising journey routes.
The decision to allow self-driving cars on public roads has come about through Science and Universities Minister David Willets, who has pushed to Department for Transport to allow the team responsible for Oxford University’s RobotCar to take their research to the next level and test it in real world conditions.
The RobotCar is an electric Nissan Leaf fitted with a number of sensors and cameras. The passenger can then programme the vehicle through an iPad application, specifying a route and allowing the journey to begin. The car is able to recognise obstacles including pedestrians, and will stop automatically if it detects an obstruction. It provides a smoother ride than regular cars and it is expected that self-driven cars could safely travel closely in convoy to reduce congestion and improve fuel efficiency with aerodynamics.
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond has said;
“This technology is in its infancy in the UK but we recognise the great opportunities it could present for helping to improve safety, reduce congestion and cut vehicle emissions. That is why we are working closely with the project team on their trials of these vehicles to learn more about the potential regulatory and legal implications this work could have in the long term.”Though the sight of driverless cars on the roads in significant numbers may be some decades away, the possibility is a distinct reality. What are your thoughts about autonomous vehicles? Get in touch with us through Facebook or Twitter and let us know!