The UK government has revealed hints of plans to make UK a global center for the development of driver-less cars, making a giant leap in the field of autonomous technology. It was announced to the public that a review would be conducted by late 2014 to ensure that the UK’s legislative and regulatory framework are in place for the vehicle manufacturers to build and test driverless cars on the roads of Britain. With a prize of about £10m, plans are underway to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for autonomous vehicles. Milton Keynes is already making some progress with driverless pods.
According to manufacturers; vehicle will be equipped with sensors for navigation and to avoid collisions. By mid-2017, a total of 100 fully autonomous vehicles are expected be functional and will be seen in action along with pedestrians. The self-drive cars initiative was announced in the chancellor’s National Infrastructure Plan. Much hype of autonomous cars revolves around Google since its self-drive car recently completed 500,000 miles (804,000km) of road tests. Legislation have already been passed in the US, California, Nevada and Florida to allow driverless cars making the vehicles commercial.
Nissan announced plans, earlier this year of having driverless cars in the hands of the public by 2020. The company also carried out the first public road test of a driverless vehicle on a Japanese highway. The advancement in autonomous technology leads us to predict a future when we may not own cars at all but simply summon one to fulfill all our transportation needs. Brad Templeton, software engineer and adviser to Google on its self-drive car project, terms it as “mobility on demand” since this vehicle provides you with immediate and highly convenient transportation facility, requiring you to only say where you want to go on your mobile phone.
He further said that with these cars commercialized, people wouldn’t have to worry about recharging, parking or refueling. That will be the car’s job. Not only will these cars not need people for attention and maintenance but they will also make cities both safer and greener. The energy consumption, the congested streets and all the hassle can be avoided, besides all the cleared up space taken up by parking lots. Our roads will change radically.
The biggest advantage that the manufacturers have been highlighting ever since these cars were presented before the public is that these vehicles are much safer and will contribute tremendously in avoiding car accidents. We know for a fact that about 1.2 million people are killed each year in car accidents so the idea of a safer means of transport is more than just appealing. Many argue about who will be liable in the event of accidents and that this issue will be a great barrier in the way of the development of autonomous vehicles. Mr. Templeton retaliates that only the barristers will find it the most interesting question. For him, the more interesting question would be whether a machine is more liable than a drunk driver. He further added that countries that decide a machine is more liable will hamper the development of this technology.
According to car manufacturers, autonomous vehicles are expected to be on the roads within a decade. Google announced that its cars will hit the roads by 2017. Not too far behind, Elon Musk, head of electric car company Tesla Motors, revealed that he will have such vehicles ready and within public access in 2016. Other car manufacturers, including Daimler and Nissan have given a 2020 date for their own versions. What is more interesting is the fact that much of the basic technology for autonomous driving is already installed and functioning in cars such as the Mercedes S500, which employs on-board radar and 3D stereoscopic cameras to estimate the distance from other cars.