UK Leading the Way with Driverless Car Trials

  • Posted on: 13 April 2015
  • By: interactive

A little while ago we published a report on driverless cars – namely the fact that the government here in the UK is finding driverless car projects.  A massive £19 million has been ploughed into trials in Greenwich, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Bristol in order to ascertain how the public reacts to this autonomous means of transports.  Initial reactions were mixed with some people voicing their concerns about the safety of driverless cars.  Surprisingly some elderly people questioned were particularly welcoming of this new technology, predicting that driverless vehicles represents a great opportunity to help both the elderly and the disabled to get out and about, visiting friends, shopping, going to the library, etc.

Recent reports seem to suggest that the legal issues concerning liability in the event of an accident may serve to slow down deployment of driverless cars and some pundits are worrying about whether this type of technology would be socially acceptable.  There are many who would be reluctant to put their faith this this radical new technology.  However, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has stated that the change in thinking necessary for autonomous cars to be widely adopted is no more of a shift than the one seen when elevators first became user operated. 

The first elevators had no automatic landing positioning and were manned by an elevator operator who was responsible for making sure the elevators stopped at the appropriate floors for their passengers.  Automatic elevators began to appear in the 1930s following an elevator operator strike which caused chaos in some of the larger cities like New York and Chicago with their high rise skyscrapers. 

The driverless vehicle trial in Greenwich is a fully autonomous shuttle which traverses the North Greenwich plaza – perhaps a bus or train driver strike would speed up adoption of this type of transport here in the future.

While driverless cars are set to transform the motor industry in the coming years, they’re likely to have a much more widespread effect and impact on several other industries from suppliers of entertainment to software makers.  The driverless cars are likely to become an extension of our living spaces and for this reason they represent a great opportunity for new revenue streams as businesses figure out methods of monetizing the extra time people will have in their cars.  We’re likely to see new ways of delivering music, movies and games as these industries zone in on a new captive audience who are looking for interesting ways to while away the journey to work.

Surprisingly, here in the UK, there are no legal barriers to driverless cars, unlike many other countries where trials cannot take place on public roads without changes to legislation.  This means that in many countries, any trials of driverless cars would need to take place in designated areas which will make it difficult to test this technology under normal, everyday conditions.  This puts the UK in a unique position – we can become one of the world’s trailblazers – once again leading the way with some of the most modern technology available in the 21st Century.