The UK Government is set to give the green light to driverless car trials to be run in real world conditions. The technology has been trialled previously but never on roads or within the transport infrastructure. Science and Universities Minister David Willetts has persuaded the Department of Transport to change regulations so that a team from Oxford University can launch an unmanned vehicle on the roads. Unmanned cars are being touted as convenient but also as safe and energy saving.
Driverless cars are typically pitted as being convenient and safe. There will be no danger of drink-driving and human error and poor human reactions will be removed from the potential dangers of driving. However, there are obvious concerns over the technology and whether it would really prove safe. Various trials and tests have been completed but the only way to test and improve road safety of such vehicles is to integrate them with manned vehicles on the road. The proposed changes would allow for strict testing under lifelike situations.
The test cars are able to detect and react to the movements of other road users and also pedestrians. The RobotCar is a modified Nissan Leaf that is packed with cameras and sensors, and can be controlled via an iPad app. They would be able to react quicker in order to avoid accidents but a number of other benefits have been mooted too. Smoother and more proficient driving means that the cars would consume less petrol or other fuel.