The British government has recently confirmed that by the end of this year there will be plans to test out the latest in driverless cars in the UK. This is a huge shift as up until now all vehicles which currently frequent the British roads are all manned by humans like you and me. So far trials of this controversial technology have only been performed on private land and not on the UK’s road network. Engineers from Oxford University have adapted a Nissan Leaf which is built here in the North East to work autonomously testing it at Oxford Science Park.
By using a system of sensors, cameras and GPS these cars are able to successfully negotiate through difficult situations while driving in a more economical fashion than the average driver. This research is all part of a £28 Billion investment from the Department of Transportation to attempt to ease congestion on our roads. In the UK testing of these amazing machines are in their first phase but around the world companies such as Google have already racked up over 300,000 miles on public roads with their modified Toyota hybrid fleet of driverless cars.
Whilst this technology is seen as a good thing for motoring, there are some issues which seem to be at the front of many people’s minds. Is it really safe to let a computer drive around the roads in a machine that weighs over 1000kg? One argument is that most commercial airliners are flown in autopilot and usually there isn’t an issue. Even if autopilot is doing its job, there are still 2 highly trained pilots waiting in case of emergency. As the research continues I’m sure we will learn more about this innovative technology but for now it will be best to keep an open mind surrounding driverless cars and see what happens.