Milton Keynes is to be the first area for driverless cars to be tested. £1.5m has been given to Milton Keynes from the government for the pods which will travel at 12mph and transport people around that area on selected routes.
This year the plan is for 20 driver-operated vehicles to be running and it is anticipated by 2017 there will be 100 fully automated versions. At the moment similar pods are used at Heathrow Airport. This concept of driverless cars is all part of a government plan to permit businesses “to make and test low carbon technologies” [i] The government hopes that this will keep the UK as leading engine designers and maintain up to 30,000 jobs in engine production.
Image source: BBC
The pods can seat two passengers at a time and can be booked using a smartphone app. When they are travelling they use sensors to avoid obstructions. The drive to work or to a meeting may become another chance to catch up on emails before you get to work, finish a presentation or just relax by playing games. The cost of each journey has not been set but if the trials are successful, the government are looking to use them in other towns and cities across the UK.
It is expected by 2050 there will be very few, or even none, of the conventional cars powered by internal combustion engines still on the roads. There is of huge importance to the UK car industry to create new low carbon technologies. The engineering firm Arup has been involved in the early stages of the project as well as Cambridge and Oxford University.
It is anticipated, by 2017, there will be 100 fully automated driverless cars operating in Milton Keynes.
In America the driverless pods have already been tested by Google they claim to have logged more than 300,000 miles without an accident. Would you trust them to take you to work? There is a lot of talk about how driverless cars will become the norm in the future and how they are safer because there is no risk of human error. But what if there’s an engine error? More concerning is not just the passenger in the pod but the pedestrians on the paths, the sensor is supposed to know if there is someone in the way but what if that doesn’t work? Although the pods aren’t going to be going particularly fast, they will however be on footpaths, which could really harm someone and be dangerous to the general public. What is deemed more dangerous? Even now there are elements of driverless cars in some ordinary cars, assisted parking is already available but how much control are we really ready to let go of?