The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be tested on public roads towards the end of 2013. The plans laid out by the Department for Transport are part of a massive £28 billion investment in British roads to tackle congestion problems.
The report from the Department for Transport says that autonomous vehicles may offer a number of safety advantages over conventional cars in the future; they would maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front obeying speed limits and maintain safe speeds around corners and would not deviate from their lane.
While we’re probably several years from seeing such vehicles on UK roads on a regular basis it’s though the first vehicles to go on sale would be semi-autonomous vehicles which would give a person the option to take full control of the vehicle at any time. Established technology in vehicles like cruise control and speed limiters has been joined by more sophisticated technology in recent years for example systems to avoid head-on collissions and advanced parking sensors so it seems to make perfect sense to take the technology to the next level.
Tests to date with autonomous vehicles have only been carried out on private land with Oxford University researchers carrying out autonomous car tests using a specially adapted Nissan Leaf around Oxford Science Park. but don’t worry about the public testing, as a precaution a back-up driver will be onboard and be able to take over in an instant should there be any problems during the tests.
The autonomous cars are equipped with a complex system of lasers, sensors and cameras around the vehicle and are seen by some experts as a potentially safer form of personal transport for the future.