Street cruising along the Kings Road used to be a big spectacle which it seems has been superseded by million pound cars in Knightsbridge, by this summer sees a new spectacle to hit London’s streets – driverless cars
Greenwich will form the test place for an £8m project to test driverless electric cars on the UKs streets. The fact that around 90% of accidents are human error combined with the chances of your car getting drunk at the pub being about zero, seems to make these vehicles a great potential development.
When Google first announced its initiative, it had already covered 200k miles around its headquarters in California prior to going public. But it was Google going public that galvanised government research and funding agencies into accelerating the initiative.
Many technical obstacles still remain but developers are confident that most have a clear path to resolution. Cars use a combination of information from GPS, mapping technology, radar and laser to detect what the best decisions are. Doubters are saying that the reliance on mapping is too restrictive, but the former Google exec responsible for Google car project thinks that combining the production with the Google street photography currently in place would be highly achievable. Google believe the harder job is ensuring the car behaves appropriately to the long tail of events that could present themselves – from how to respond differently to a plastic bag being blown or child crossing the road, to less challenging issues like adapting to rainfall.
Becoming a reality
Google believes they are 5 years from this initiative becoming a reality but won’t go on record. Additional safety elements would come equipping vehicles to communicate with each other through tools like Wi-Fi, which has been labelled V2V technology. V2V has been developed beyond driverless cars so will be well advanced for either kind of vehicle as a safety initiative. This technology not only brings safety improvements by controlling things like distances between vehicles, but it also helps with efficiency. As vehicles smooth their flow and cut out the concertina effect through regulated speed, they actually get to their destination quicker with less fuel consumption.
There are still plenty of questions to answer but perhaps the biggest is where will the liability lay in the event of an accident? the manufacturer? the operator? the map supplier? the Wi-Fi company? the roadway owner? the GPS satellite? Questions, questions, but the industry looks well placed to provide the answers.
Get to Greenwich this summer.