Saturday 24 February 2018

Members of the public can pootle around in a driverless vehicle for the first time

By Prudence Wade

The technology is being tested in Greenwich.

This could be the beginning of the end of awkward conversations with your cab driver, because self-driving vehicles are being tested by the public for the first time in London.

Around 100 people will travel in a prototype shuttle on a two-mile route near London’s O2 Arena over the next three weeks. It is hoped the project could make it easier for smaller neighbourhoods in Greenwich to access existing public transport hubs.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is going to be a Fast and Furious-type situation: unfortunately for all speed junkies out there the driverless cars can only travel up to 10mph.

A lack of breakneck speed is more than made up for by some seriously cool technology. Five cameras and three lasers will help the vehicle navigate along a riverside path used by pedestrians and cyclists, although there will also be a trained person on board who can stop the vehicle if required during the tests.

Officials behind the £8 million GATEway Project believe the first paying passengers could use the system by 2019 on a trial basis, and it could eventually be rolled out to similar locations across the country.

Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, which is developing the electric vehicles, said: “This needs to be like any other form of transportation. It shouldn’t be a white-knuckle ride for passengers. We know we’ve got the software right when the journeys are unremarkable.”

We don’t know about you, but travelling in a driverless car would be a far from unremarkable journey for most of us. However, we’re fast approaching this future of driverless cars and smart cities: self-driving cars were tested by a major manufacturer on public roads in the UK for the first time last month.

Not only this, but last week the Government announced plans for the first phase of its £100 million investment in testing infrastructure to develop autonomous driving technology.

Nearly six out of 10 (57%) UK adults believe connected and autonomous vehicles will improve their quality of life, according to a recent survey of 3,641 people by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Press Association

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