The UK is ranked eighth in the world for progress with regard to autonomous vehicles, and yet it will still be 15-20 years before we see fully autonomous cars in daily use by the motoring public.
That is the view of a panel of experts assembled for a live discussion session staged last week as part of the Festival of Road Safety.
The session, titled: ‘Connected & Autonomous Vehicles – what are the road safety challenges?’, featured Dr Huw Davies from Coventry University, Michael Talbot from Zenzic and the CCAV, and Ruth Anderson from Oxfordshire County Council.
On a scale of one to 10, the panellists agreed we are about half way on the journey towards fully autonomous vehicles being available for widespread use by the motoring public in the UK.
Huw Davies explained the two alternative approaches currently being developed: ‘everything somewhere’- a vehicle that can do everything by itself in a tight geographical location, often an urban environment; and ‘something everywhere’ – typically where driver assistance systems are deployed to enable the car to do some things by itself in all driving situations.
Michael Talbot said the UK has world class expertise in some areas, and according to the Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index is ranked eighth in the world in the ‘race for autonomous vehicles’ – and when it comes to G7 economies, is second only to the US.
The countries ranked above the UK are Singapore, The Netherlands, Norway, USA, Finland, Sweden, South Korea and UAE.
Ruth Anderson (approx 22mins into video) went on to talk about Project Endeavour, a Government-backed research project under which a fleet of six Ford Mondeos, equipped with software capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, is completing a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway station to Oxford’s main train station.
The route includes semi-urban and urban roads, different speed limits from 40mph down to 20mph, and traffic signals. Trials are being run at different times of day and night to expose the autonomous vehicles to a range of traffic scenarios – from the morning commute to the school run, and a range of weather conditions.
As the local authority hosting the trial, Oxfordshire County Council is producing checklists and guidelines to ensure they meet their obligations with regard to safety, and to assist other local authorities who may become involved in similar trials further down the line.
Click here to watch the full autonomous vehicle session on Festival catch up.