Four cities selected for ‘driverless cars’ trials

12.00 | 4 December 2014 | | 6 comments

£10m of funding from the Government organisation Innovate UK has given the green light for testing driverless cars in four UK conurbations.

George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, announced the funding yesterday (3 Dec) as part of the Government’s Autumn Financial Statement.

The trials will take place in Greenwich in South East London, Milton Keynes and Coventry (working together as one project), and Bristol and will run for between 18 and 36 months from January 2015.

The Government announcement says testing driverless cars “in a real-world environment will help lead to greater levels of understanding of these vehicles”, and will also “allow the public to accept how the vehicles will fit into everyday life”.

The funding comes through the Government’s competition, ‘Introducing driverless cars to UK roads’. The aim is to establish the UK as the global hub for the research, development and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies.

Nick Jones, from Innovate UK, said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.

“There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”

In Greenwich, the GATEway project is described as “a model for potential implementation of automated transport systems in London, the UK and beyond”. 

Led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the GATEway project will create “interoperable, scalable testing environments, protocols and standards guidance”. Testing will include automated electric shuttle vehicles, a demonstration of tele-operated driving and a simulated 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula.

In Milton Keynes and Coventry, the UK Autodrive programme will involve the demonstration of road-going cars and lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised spaces. It will be delivered by the City of Milton Keynes, working in association with the City of Coventry.

The VENTURER consortium in Bristol will investigate the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and explore how the public react to such vehicles.

The project will aim to “deepen understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for our economy and society”.



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    Do I detect a degree of scepticism here? Quite right to. As an engineer involved in remote control systems for 34 years, I feel quite sure that crash rates will increase, not reduce.


    for how the various sensors the vehicles use to grope their way along can be affected by rain and fog etc.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Fine, but who are the human programmers? Are they expert drivers first and programmers second – or vice versa? Will the driverless car’s ‘road sense’ only reflect that of the programmers’ – whatever standard that may be?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    These vehicles will be like taxis which will answer your questions.

    True, but with full incident records and one human driver will be replaced by the work of many human programmers.

    There are people who have a job working this out and they call it the tunnel problem or street car for a different scenario. There will be no opportunity to take control – just like in a black cab. Yes the prosecutions will be interesting but will have more information than most air crashes.

    Mark, Caerphilly
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    I will be the first to admit I am not qualified to comment on the technology behind the equipment.

    A human has the ability to make moral and value judgments based on best options available. For example, while driving down an avenue of cars at an appropriate speed and a child runs out I can make a judgment call that if I cannot stop I will make an evasive maneuver to avoid the child and perhaps swipe an oncoming vehicle. If the automated car cannot stop in time, can it also make the same reasoned judgment? Or will it take out the child.

    If the driver tries to take over the vehicle and a collison results who is to blame? Does the technology company argue the driver interfered with the vehicle and contributed to the incident. If the driver allows the vehicle to control it do the police argue the driver failed to take action.

    The first prosecutions should be interesting.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Driverless cars will still require a human to do the programming, so how can we be reassured of the competency of those doing the programming? Do they – whoever ‘they’ may be – have the neccessary expertise and experienece of driving vehicles in all conditions, in all traffic scenarios, to be able to do this? Human errors behind the wheel might simply be replaced by human errors in front of the computer screen or in the lab.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Do you need a driving licence to sit in your driverless car? In a future driving test do you do the theory and your car does the practical?

    Gareth, Surrey
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