We already wrote about driverless cars hitting the streets several times (California, University of Michigan) but until now, the talk was all America. Now, cars without drivers will also hit the street in the UK, in 4 selected cities: Greenwich (south-east London), Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes. There will be a total of three projects, as Milton Keynes and Coventry will only develop one project. The decision was announced by the quango Innovate UK.
The testing will run anywhere between 18 and 36 months from January 2015, after which a decision will be made regarding the public implementation of driverless cars.
“Testing driverless cars in a real-world environment will help lead to greater levels of understanding of these vehicles. It will also allow the public to accept how the vehicles will fit into everyday life”, Innovate UK wrote.
The Bristol pilot will be run by the Venturer consortium in collaboration with Formula 1 specialist Williams Advanced Engineering, University of the West of England, and University of Bristol. Transport consultant TRL will be in charge of the Greenwich project, in collaboration with oil giant Shell and Telefonica, a communications company. Coventry and Milton Keynes will host the UK Autodrive consortium, whose members include car manufacturers Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, plus Coventry council, Milton Keynes council, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the Open University. All in all, we’re looking at expected costs of £19 m – almost $30 m. Nick Jones, lead technologist for the low carbon vehicle innovation platform at Innovate UK, said:
“Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and at Innovate UK, we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.”
Personally, I think the time is ripe to start adding driverless cars to the roads. If the technology checks out, then we’re talking about fewer accidents, more efficient driving and all in all a lot of time, energy and money saved. But is the technology up to this monumental task? Jones is optimistic.
“There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”