Driverless cars in the UK
On UK roads it is illegal for cars to run without a driver in control and cars with Semi-autonomous systems must have a driver who is fit and licenced to always drive with their hands on the steering wheel to stay within the law. The Department for Transport will begin to review these laws.
David Bruce, the director of AA Cars, says "Cars were already becoming increasingly automated with the introduction of assistance systems to aid parking and keeping vehicles in lane and a safe distance from the car in front. However, there is a big leap of faith needed by drivers from embracing assistance systems to accepting the fully automated car. Two-thirds of AA members still enjoy driving too much to want a fully automated car."
Google have announced a new design of driverless cars which hit the headlines in May. The design is still not fully completed but involves sensors and technology and equipment that cost around £90, 000, which is more than the vehicle itself.
In California, the Google driverless car has had approved tests done and has completed over 300, 000 miles on the USA roads. Japan, in 2013 tested Nissan autonomous vehicles on a highway. Gothenburg, in Sweden has allowed Volvo to test 100 driverless cars but this is planned to happen in 2017.
If the UK wants to do these tests they have until October to show their interest and these tests run for 18 to 36 months. The ten million pounds fund from the government will be split between the three winners of the test.
The way the cars work is different to the cars with automatic breaking or cruise control technology. These cars will actually be able to steer, indicate, break and accelerate using technology. You set where you are going from and to and off the car goes, there is basically no driving involved, almost like autopilot on a plane.
The most technical part of the design is Lidar (light detection and ranging) which measures how lasers bounce off the reflected surfaces. This will get information on millions of points around the vehicle in order to see how far away the vehicle is from other objects, for example a car stopped in front. The cars will also use 360 degree images around the car (computer vision) using cameras attached to the vehicle. These cameras will show the driver everything around them, including pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles.
The predicament now is whether it is safe enough to rely on a vehicles computer system to drive at high speeds around the UK roads and whether technology is reliable enough.