Pretty soon we can expect to see driverless cars on the roads of London. They will also closely resemble the shuttle passenger pods that can be found at Heathrow airport. The group that is behind this project is currently adapting the shuttles for use on Britain’s roads. The exact design that is to be rolled out is yet to be unveiled.
Trials for the driverless vehicles are expected to be across the country, not just in London with major cities that include Milton Keynes, Coventry and Bristol. The project has a price tag of £8m and is part funded by the UK government and major UK industries. It is reported that from July the pods will be tested in the Greenwich area on the pavements. Final routes area as yet unconfirmed and are yet to be fully worked out but are likely to focus around the underground station in Greenwich and the main business area.
Westfield the iconic British sportscar maker will be assembling and manufacturing the pods and then carrying out the tests. Then Heathrow central will create and build the required software, while another firm Oxbotica will provide the sensors and route mapping to the vehicles. There will be three months of vigorous testing with invited users and then finally with the general public. There will be a steward present throughout all of these tests to ensure safety and to use the emergency stop button if needed. As they will provide seats up to six people then this shouldn’t be a problem.
What does this mean for the future of cars? Well could we see standard car insurance premiums starting to be introduced? As after all it will no longer be down to the actual driver and their profile and demographic anymore but down to an autonomous machine. How would you be able to charge a premium that is different to another driverless car when they are exactly the same? An interesting future is ahead of us in this space and one we are watching with great interest.