Driverless cars have had a surprising amount of support from British politicians and authorities across the board, with trials of several different types of piloted vehicles set to take place as early as spring next year. Today though that push has received an even bigger boost thanks to the support of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which has said that it believes automated vehicles could save hundreds, if not thousands of lives a year.
As it stands, around 2,000 people die every year on British roads, with countless more injuries as well. That has an understandably horrific impact on the families and friends of those involved, but it also puts a big financial burden on everyone from insurers, to hospitals – all of that could be alleviated by automated vehicles according to the IET. It said in a recent address that we could see autonomous vehicles on British roads in large numbers within 15 years and that it could “significantly reduce casualties on our roads.”
“Automated cars could also travel in platoons, which would be linked up to traffic light systems to keep them moving and avoid congestion,” said Phil Blythe, head of the ITE (via BT). “There is likely to be growth in car clubs, with few people owning their own vehicles. Taxis are likely to become redundant. Speeding may become a thing of the past as cars are likely to be fitted with speed- limiting device.”
He went on to say that he was excited by the current growth of automated technology and would continue to push for its acceleration in the UK.
Of course even if 15 years from now we have thousands or even a couple of million driverless cars on the road, it will be many years before all of the current manuals (or at least a large number of them) are faded out entirely. In the meantime though, we’ll have semi-automated vehicles, which come with safety features that brake for us, stop us going out of the lane and perhaps even take over during traffic jams. Another potential piece of automation being considered too, is tailoring the driving experience to the driver. For example, someone with limited driving experience wouldn’t be able to accelerate too quickly or go above certain speeds.
A lot needs to change before all this is possible though. The big trials for automated vehicles happening over the next few months will test different aspects of the industry. Some areas will look at the costs involved in the local environment, such as potentially upgrading local connectivity to provide clear input for the vehicles, as well as the public’s response to the technology. Others will experiment with different types of automated vehicles, whether that be cars or little shuttles for use on university campuses or similar.
One big hurdle however will be getting over law enforceable, insurance and legislation, to make the industries involved and the regulatory system fit with the new technology and not hamper its development, especially in this important infancy stage.
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