Photo credit, Robotcar: Department of Engineering Science
THE Government has announced that it plans to test driverless car technology on roads by the end of the year. This is part of a £28bn road strategy investment.
This announcement follows recent news that the Government is also investing £1bm, along with 27 auto industry companies, in a new advanced propulsion centre. This facility will focus on researching and developing low-carbon engines that produce less pollution.
Researchers from Oxford University have been working alongside Nissan on adapting a Nissan Leaf. Controlled off-road tests have already taken place, where the car has followed a predetermined route. The next step is to trial the car on roads alongside other traffic.
The cars will initially be tested on quiet rural and suburban roads. As a safety precaution, there will also be a driver present who will have the ability to take control of the vehicle.
This is not the first driverless car to be tested, Google has been working on an automated robot vehicle that has clocked over 300,000 miles without any accidents. Laws are being passed in America permitting the use of autonomous cars on roads.
The reasons behind these developments revolve around safety and the environment. Driverless cars will address accidents on roads caused by driver’s inattentiveness. As well as safety, this technology will make personal travel more accessible for the elderly and disabled.
The technology that enables driverless cars includes cameras, sensors, GPS and computer systems. Together they enable cars to navigate through traffic, while reducing congestion and improving safety.
Driverless technology already exists in most new cars, such as anti–lock breaks which monitors when the driver breaks to prevent the wheels from locking up and avoiding uncontrolled skidding, and cruise control that regulates the distance between your car and the one in front of it. Fully automated cars will be an extension of this.
The introduction of automated cars onto roads will be a slow process. The technology needs to be perfected before it becomes a permanent alternative to manual driving. In order to ensure that this research is continued, legislation is being put in place to make the six-year commitment mandatory for whoever is in power after the next election.
Advances in transportation technology can increase safety, and help save the environment through the reduction, and one-day eradication, of carbon emissions.
The writer is Dave Jones, a specialist in business car hire.