UK’s first driverless cars to take on Milton Keynes
If you didn’t expect to see driverless cars in the UK for a while, you’re in for a surprise, as the very first autonomous vehicles take to the country’s byways today.
The fully autonomous cars are part of a government trial that’s aimed at smoothing out any bumps on the road before more driverless vehicles come to the UK in the coming years.
Testing comes after 18 months of intensive development, which involved recording and mapping the roads and pathways of Milton Keynes – not a town renowned for its simple layout.It’s Oxford-based company Oxbotica that is behind the tech, which uses radar and cameras, similar to the likes of Google and Uber’s self-driving cars in the US.
Graeme Smith, Oxbotica CEO, commented: “Our leading team of UK-based scientists, mathematicians and engineers have worked incredibly hard to develop this ground-breaking technology, which is bringing self-driving vehicles yet another a step closer to deployment across the world.”
However, Oxbotica’s Selenium won’t be taking on Milton Keynes’ infamous roundabouts just yet – the small, pod-like vehicle is designed to use the town’s pathways and pavements.
Oxbotica is also a member of the “UK AUTODRIVE” consortium, which includes the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Tata Motors and Oxbridge colleges.
“A huge step”
Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), a not-for-profit research institute has also been heavily involved. Neil Fulton, programme director at TSC, said: "Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey."
The government’s Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "Today's first public trials of driverless vehicles in our towns is a ground-breaking moment and further evidence that Britain is at the forefront of innovation.
— Transport Systems (@TSCatapult) October 11, 2016
New government legislation is also central to the project which, following the vote to leave the EU, is keen encourage start-up companies and carmakers to develop and invest in this tech. Experts predict autonomous tech could be worth up to £900 billion by 2025.
Clark commented: "The global market for autonomous vehicles presents huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms. And the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles."
What do you think about autonomous tech? Could progressing so fast bring safety into question, or is it the future for everyone? Let us know what you think in the comments!