Transport minister predicts automated school run

Parents have a lot to deal with on a day to day basis and getting the kids to school on time is just one of them. Which is why the idea of taking away that bit of added pressure is an intriguing one. It’s certainly one British Transport Minister Claire Perry believes could well be in our future, as she said in a chat with fellow MPs that she sees automated cars and buses picking up children from school within the next few years.

With the first big trial of driverless vehicles set to take place in the UK next year, it’s no surprise that MPs are keen to discuss the new fangled technology and how it might apply to British society in years to come. Of course most people have envisaged the idea of going to work without having to focus much on the road, but the school run is a great point. Even if buses aren’t used, schoolfriends could easily share a lift in a single vehicle, cutting back on a lot of congestion in the mornings and afternoons.

Chances are initially a parent would need to go along with the children as well, to make sure they weren’t at risk, but trusting parents could quite quickly switch to having the car do all the school runs for them. Potentially they could keep an eye on things via an in-car camera or similar too.


Claire Perry, seen here in 2012. Source: Wikimedia

While giving evidence to the transport select committee, Perry said: “My personal view, I think it’s incredibly exciting because there is an opportunity to use time and capacity more effectively.

“We are short of capacity in terms of roads in this country, we are all short of time. Anything we can do to use capacity more intelligently and preserve safety and give people more time is a good thing.”

She also touched on the idea of automated buses, which she admitted do make some people nervous because of their size and potential to do damage if they lose control, but she said that getting over that fear was an important step to take to help free up our roadways and make public transport more competitive.

“I know it makes everyone nervous,” she said, “but anything you can do to make mass vehicles more cost effective would be interesting as well. So I think there is huge potential, but we are on an evolution.”

Beginning in early 2015, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Greenwich and Coventry will all be running trials of different driverless car systems, in order to investigate their potential effectiveness, as well as different aspects of the way they will impact our society. For example, some will look at the public’s reaction to seeing cars without a driver making their way around the town, while others will examine how they affect roadways and legislation. Others still will investigate what types of vehicles are the most effective and how much human involvement needs to be in place as a safe guard.

[Thanks DM]



    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

    All author posts