Back in February the Tiger.co.uk blog covered news of the testing of a driverless RobotCar by the boffins at Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science. These tests use a Nissan Leaf electric car fitted with a combination of cameras, laser sensors and computers. And we’ve also taken a couple of looks at Google’s work in this field over in California.
Last week’s Sunday Times provided further news in the development of autonomous cars, revealing that David Willetts, minister for universities and science, is pressing for the Department of Transport to relax regulations in the UK to allow the Oxford test team to take to public roads. This move, he has argued, is vital if the UK is to compete with the USA and other countries in the development of this new motoring technology. The Department of Transport has not yet confirmed that it will make the necessary amendments to existing road traffic law.
Willetts commented that: “In California they have a regulatory regime in place that permits these cars to operate on public roads. The Department of Transport is now going to introduce a regulatory regime that makes that possible here”. The Californian government legalised self-driving cars on public roads in 2012 and Google estimates that the vehicles could be readily available in 5 years’ time.
The arrival of fully automated cars is much anticipated as it should bring with it massive improvements in road safety and fuel efficiency, removing, as it will do, driver error. Clearly this will have knock-on effects for car insurance
, both in terms of pricing and in the attribution of blame in the event of an accident. Does the software manufacturer eventually replace the driver as having liability?
With much of the technology required for driverless cars already available in many cars, most industry observers see their advent as more of a “when” than an “if”.
We would welcome your thoughts regarding this technology and how it will be applied.
Until this science fiction really becomes motoring fact, please keep your hands firmly on the steering wheel and drive safely!