Driverless cars, or autonomous vehicles, may sound like something from a futuristic movie but the reality is that they will be tested on Britain’s motorways as soon as next year. Backed by £19m of Government funding, projects are underway in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Volvo amongst others will be testing driverless cars which are set to reduce the number of accidents, to improving emissions and easing congestion. These tests will also analyse the legal and insurance implications of driverless cars.
So, how does it work?
This is the technical bit! There will be many additions to the car to include radar sensors dotted all around to check the position of cars nearby. Video cameras will acknowledge traffic lights, read road signs, keep track of other vehicles whilst checking for pedestrians and other potential obstructions and hazards in the road. In addition, lidar sensors will detect edges of roads and lane markings. The wheels will house ultrasonic sensors to detect curbs and other vehicles for the purpose of parking. All the data which is picked up will be sent to a central computer which controls the steering, acceleration and braking. Pretty clever stuff and this is just the start.
As well as the obvious safety concerns, the issue of accountability has also been raised recently. Presently, in the region of 40% of all motor insurance claims are disputed and this has led to an increase of dashboard mounted cameras. It is easier to argue a verbal version of accident circumstances than it is to dispute camera evidence. Calls are therefore being made for compulsory recording in driverless cars to enable insurance claims to be settled quickly and efficiently should the need arise. In fact, well ahead of time, Broker Adrian Flux has made the first personal driverless car insurance policy available for cars which already have such features as self-parking.
Would you trust a driverless car?
There really does seem to be a split down the middle with regards to driverless cars. While some are keen at the thought of not having to drive and the benefits that come with it, there are others who would not want to relinquish control of their vehicle to a computer and are concerned about the safety aspect. For some of us there is also the enjoyment that comes with driving. Whatever your views it does seem that driverless cars are very much a thing of the not too distant future and it won’t be long before we have the option of changing the way we drive/or don’t drive, forever!
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