Driverless cars to carry human passengers on UK roads for first time
Driverless cars are set to carry human passengers on Britain’s roads for the first time, a government-backed consortium has announced.
Trials starting on Thursday will see cars driving through the London boroughs of Croydon and Bromley in a bid to prove the technology can operate safely on the UK’s cramped roads.
The cars, designed by UK company FiveAI, will be carrying one of 130 volunteers everyday on a circuit through the busy London roads.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hailed the Bromley trials as a “major step” towards driverless cars becoming a common sight in Britain.
He said: “The untapped potential of self-driving vehicle technology is huge — it could enhance road safety, tackle isolation, and create economic opportunities.
“The Government’s Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy sets out how it is planning for the introduction of self-driving vehicles, and StreetWise’s successful trial will be a major step to rolling out the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution.”
The routes will test how the cars react to real life situations and deal with unpredictable human drivers. The cars will also have a driver in them ready to take control should anything go awry.
Stan Boland, co-founder and CEO of FiveAI, said the most driverless trials so far had been conducted in the West Coast of America where, roads tended to be wider and on a grid system.
However, the Bromley trials would allow the company to see how its cars fare on Britain’s narrower roads and less clement weather conditions.
He said: “In Northern Europe, we have lower lighting, poorer satellite coverage, higher rainfall and greater density of road users. We also have to deal with erratic, medieval street plans that are nothing like the grid systems of the US.”
The project behind the trials, StreetWise, has received £12.776 million in Government funding to develop the technology for the UK’s roads network.
The scheme is being backed by the Direct Line insurance group, who are providing the volunteers from its workforce in its Bromley headquarters.
Jade Trimbee, external affairs manager for Direct Line, said that the company had had little trouble recruiting enough volunteers for the trials.
“I think if you speak to someone who doesn’t work in insurance it is quite astounding to think you will be in a car where there is no driver, she said.
“But the fact that we work in insurance, and there is already quite a lot of work going on on this, they are more used to that idea.
“It is not as scary as some people think it is, it’s happening and it’s here”.
Author: The Telegraph
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