Driverless cars are the future. Well, that seems the future for London as Oxford-based Driven group was granted by the UK government £8.6 million to try out a fleet of autonomous cars between Oxford and London.
Led by Oxbotica, a company that makes software for driverless vehicles, Driven will test around 10 autonomous vehicles on UK roadways and still will continue with their self-driving pod trials in London. Of course, insurance company XL Catlin will also be involved in testing and assessing the risks that a project such as this might encounter at every stage of testing.
Testing of these driverless vehicles will be done at a robotics center in Oxfordshire, RACE. Driven founder, Professor Paul Newman told BBC: "We're moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle to fleets of autonomous vehicles - and what's interesting is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why."
The cars reportedly will be able to communicate with each other. They will be able to relay information as regards possible hazards. Although they should operate at full autonomy, a human driver will still be onboard just to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
This is not the very first time that driverless vehicles are being tested on UK motorways. In fact, the UK government has already committed to about £100m or approximately $127 million in total for "autonomous driving projects." The UK government wants Britain to "lead the way in developing" autonomous driving tech.
However, one expert noted that Britain might have been falling behind what has been done in terms of autonomous driving abroad. Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School said: "Britain is trying to keep up, but the big development in the field is going on elsewhere."
He noted that these include those being done by Google in the United States, Volvo in China, and Daimler in Germany. "And amounts being committed [by the UK] are relatively small beer," the professor added.
Meanwhile, last February, Nissan has begun testing autonomous driving technology using routes in East London. This was to test the performance of Leaf electric car with its cameras and radars that were designed to negotiate traffic and roundabouts.
Also, Cambridge-based AI firm FiveAI is also leading their own consortium, aptly called "StreetWise." In fact, the firm has received a £12.8m or $16.4 million in funding from the UK government. FiveAI wants to showcase that people can actually order a fully functional driverless ride using a smartphone app in 2019.
It won't be long now until motorways are filled with driverless vehicles. And the UK is pushing this tech aggressively in the hopes to catch up with other countries. But is autonomous driving good for the next generation?