The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) says making all vehicles autonomous could prevent up to 95% of collisions, and has identified 2050 as the earliest date by which the UK vehicle fleet could be fully autonomous .
In its latest report into the technology, the IMechE says ‘removing the drivers from our vehicles should ultimately mean there are less crashes on our roads’.
The report says the benefits of autonomous and driverless vehicles are ‘huge’ and advocates ‘redoubling efforts to look at how we phase out human involvement in driving vehicles’.
However, in a cautionary note, the IMechE acknowledges there are questions to be addressed before highly and fully automated cars will be accepted by the public.
The report says that “currently it is estimated to take 10 years to get a new technology on to the production line, with a further 10 to 15 years to get the majority of the UK fleet changed.
“Therefore, the earliest we could predict a near 100% highly automated UK fleet is by 2040, and a fully autonomous UK fleet by 2050.”
On the back of its report, the IMechE is calling for urgent Government and industry action to encourage the greater use of autonomous and driverless vehicles.
Philippa Oldham, head of transport at the IMechE and the report’s lead author, said: “We need to urgently resolve legislative, technological and insurance issues to help encourage the rollout of autonomous or driverless vehicles.
“The benefits to this sort of technology are huge, with estimates that the overall UK economic benefit could be as much as £51bn a year due to fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade.
“Currently 95% of all crashes happen due to driver error, so it makes sense for Government, industry and academia to redouble efforts to look at how we phase out human involvement in driving vehicles.”
“There needs to be much more action from Government to help integrate driverless vehicles into the current UK transport network. This will include updates and standardisation to road signage and road markings to enable these driverless vehicles to operate in the safest way possible.
“There is also a role for the car dealerships and vehicle manufacturers as they will need to clarify how they will provide the greater level of after-sales care, technical updates and upgrades that will be required to ensure the safe introduction of these vehicles on our roads.
“Much more work needs to be done to clarify regulation and insurance issues, such as where liability lies in case of an accident.”