Driverless cars were once a thing of science-fiction – a sign of a futuristic world. But they are now closer to reality than you might think.¹
The UK Government recently announced plans to employ driverless “pods” in Milton Keynes that will transport people around the city on designated pathways. The vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 12mph and use sensors to avoid obstacles. Passengers can browse the internet, check emails and read the newspaper while inside the pod. The scheme will introduce twenty driver-operated vehicles by 2015 while one hundred fully automated versions will be running by 2017.²
Similar pods at Heathrow Airport are already in use. The battery-powered vehicles use laser sensors to find their way around.³
(By Moshrunners (During a trip to the airport) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
So could you see vehicles like the ones in Milton Keynes and Heathrow on roads near you any time soon? Don’t hold your breath. Transport expert, Stephen Joseph at the Campaign for Better Transport doesn’t think so. “They work well for a grid town, like Milton Keynes,” he says, “but most towns are better suited to buses.” ⁴
Why are manufacturers keen to develop driverless cars?
Driverless cars supposedly have two key advantages:
2) Lower emissions—they increase fuel efficiency by reducing congestion and therefore waste less fuel.⁶[symple_toggle title=”Find out how car manufacturers are competing to revolutionise autonomous car technology”]
- Nissan’s latest Qashqai Crossover introduces features such as fitted cameras to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and detectors to aid blind spots.⁷
- BMW has recently advanced its driver-assistance technology which includes optical cameras and radar that continuously monitor road conditions and adjust steering accordingly.⁸
- Volvo Trucks have already tested autonomous trucks on public roads with vehicle-to-vehicle communication that enables the trucks to communicate wirelessly with other vehicles in order to prevent collisions. ⁹
Did you know?
Google already uses driverless cars in California which have driven more than 400,000 miles without a major crash.¹⁰
(By Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve Jurvetson derivative work: Mariordo [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
The world’s first large-scale test of driverless cars will take place in 2017 as one hundred Volvos will be introduced to the streets of Gothenburg. They will drive in everyday road conditions surrounded by pedestrians and other traffic, aiming to demonstrate improved road safety. Volvo have stated that it is their goal that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in one of its cars by 2020.¹¹
So while Milton Keynes’ pods might not be suitable for other cities, it appears more likely that manufacturers will continue to develop autonomous features as the motor industry edges closer towards creating a completely driverless car.
Check out this infographic from MoneySupermarket:
Image source: MoneySupermarket Car Insurance