It has just been revealed this week that Jaguar Land Rover launched the first UK public road test of driverless vehicles. It is an exciting announcement for the British motoring scene, largely due to the majority of news on autonomous vehicles coming from US companies like Google. The testing is to take place in Coventry within the city itself. This may sound alarming but the testing will have a human driver present and the experiments are mostly to see how well the vehicles ‘talk’ to each other. Therefore there isn’t a huge amount of risk of out of control machines causing chaos!
Getting self-driving cars to wirelessly communicate with each other is one of the main hurdles in getting them on the road. The vehicles are all fitted with 360 cameras that survey the landscape and make calculated driving decisions based on the immediate conditions. However, an extra layer of security could be added if the cars were all interconnected at all times. This means that a car approaching round a blind corner would be on the radar of another car waiting at a junction. These types of exchanges are what often catch human drivers unaware and cause road accidents. One of the main selling points of driverless cars (apart from the convenience) is the huge potential to reduce road collisions and save lives.
Which UK Manufacturer?
The Google Waymo is the next iteration of the autonomous driving revolution in the US, however many speculate that the tech giant will licence its technology rather than manufacturing the cars itself. Back on home soil it is the car manufacturers themselves who are producing the technology and breaking ground.
One question which goes unanswered is which (if any) manufacturer does the UK want to purchase from. A recent study by intelligentcarleasing.com indicated that the vast majority of the public aren’t in favour of driverless vehicles at all. However it was noted that a lot of the sentiment behind that was due to lack of confidence or knowledge of how driverless cars work.
Therefore with a bit more PR from the developers/manufacturers it should be a reasonably easy task to win over the doubters.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling claims he wants to see self-driving cars on the UK’s roads by 2021. So we could be in a world which is very different before we know it. However it’s likely that the only people occupying these new vehicles if they do hit the roads that soon are mega-rich early adopters. It is likely that the average Joe will still be pushing the pedals and occasionally stalling well into the foreseeable future.