Driverless car testing in the UK has been opened up to the public with the announcement that the first autonomous vehicle trials are set to take place in London later this year.
UK citizens keen to experience travelling in a vehicle with no driver can register now to participate in the trials, which will be conducted at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich under the government’s £8m Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) project.
The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) will lead the testing of electric autonomous vehicles navigating their way around Greenwich with members of the public on board.
The idea is to gauge public reaction to autonomous vehicles before and after people have travelled in them.
Professor Nick Reed, director at TRL and technical lead of the GATEway project, explained that autonomous vehicles will prompt a change in the world of transport akin to the move from horse-drawn carriages to motorised vehicles.
“Testing these vehicles in a living environment, like the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, takes the concept from fiction to reality,” he said.
“It gives the public a chance to experience what it’s like to ride in an automated vehicle and to make their own mind up as to how much they like it, trust it and could accept it as a service in the city.”
The appeal of the public trials is likely to be the novelty of travelling in a driverless car, but citizens are also being invited to participate in workshops that envision what the autonomous vehicles of the future will involve and how people will react to their use in major cities.
Driverless cars and their role in smart cities are part of the government’s overall technology agenda.
Business secretary Sajid Javid explained that autonomous vehicles exploit the UK’s expertise in engineering and automotive design.
“Making driverless cars a reality is going to revolutionise our roads and travel, making journeys safer, faster and more environmentally friendly,” he said.
“Very few countries can match our engineering excellence in the automotive sector or our record on innovative research, and this announcement shows we are already becoming one of the world’s leading centres for driverless car technology.”
Carmaker Jaguar Land Rover is one such UK company shifting up a gear with its plans to create autonomous systems that mimic human driving.
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