Driverless Cars Projected to Hit UK Roads by 2021
On Wednesday, the United Kingdom announced its goal to place driverless cars on their roads by 2021. The UK is refurbishing their code of practice to ensure safety throughout the testing and launching periods of the vehicles. The additions to the code of practice include clearer guidance on conducting trials more transparently and safely, as well as better communication with the relevant people during trial-planning stages.
Government officials, like Transport Minister Jesse Norman, are showing their support for the project and for “new transport technologies, including automation.” Norman applauds the government for “supporting the safe, transparent trialing of this pioneering technology, which could transform the way we travel."
It is also expected that the UK’s market for connected and automated vehicles will be worth £52 billion by 2035. Gov.uk mentions that “this is a major boost to a sector open to investment from the world’s brightest transport technology companies.”
However, the idea that driverless cars will be on the roads so soon is also met with various levels of criticism by experts and civilians alike. Christian Wolmar, an accomplished transport journalist also states that the UK government is "putting the cart before the horse," adding: "The idea that they are thinking of allowing these cars on the streets before anything is ready is a mistake and might even put lives at risk."
Due to the many accidents that have occurred when testing autonomous vehicles in the US, it is clear that engineers will have to worry about pedestrians and different types of road signals. Henderson acknowledges this problem, stating "What we need to do is think through a whole bunch of behavior changes, not just around the vehicles themselves but how people interact with them."
There is evidence that the public is also very hesitant to allow autonomous vehicles on their roads. Head of roads policy for the RAC motoring organization, Nicholas Lyes, provided survey results from 2016. The results indicated that 62% of UK drivers are scared by the thought of autonomous vehicles on the road. Only 27% of drivers believe these driverless cars will make roads safer.
Lays says that it will take a lot of work to convince the public that the future of transportation is all about cars that drive themselves. It may be too early to predict that the UK will get these cars on the road by 2021, but they have the potential to eliminate car accidents and driver errors.