The news that the Government has decided to allow self-driving, or fully autonomous, vehicles was announced in a DFT announcement to business leaders last month.
The DFT confirmed: “It’s our vision that by 2025, we will have a regularity framework in place to support the widespread deployment of self-driving vehicles across the UK’s roads, helping to make the movement of people and goods, safer, greener and more efficient.”
The Government has been no doubt influenced by the statistics from motor insurers showing safety devices such as lane departure warning, brake assist, and speed recognition, have reduced the rate of accidents for drivers of vehicles with these additions.
These fully autonomous vehicles which will not have steering wheels or pedals, will initially be restricted to 20mph and allowed in areas with mixed traffic and a high concentration of pedestrians.
These vehicles will need to programmed with different versions of the Highway Code, which relies heavily on common sense and human judgement.
Robots will not understand statements such as 'adjust your driving to the conditions' and will not respond to a flash of lights to indicate 'you may proceed ahead of me'.
There are thoughts that driverless cars could have audio messages such as 'go ahead' and 'thanks' accompanied by emojis displayed on their windscreens.
The first vehicles in the UK will be shuttles, carrying up to 16 seated or standing passengers, on set routes and delivery vehicles.
Oxbotica, an Oxford-based autonomous software company, will use a vehicle built by a German company, ZF.Mike Potts, founder of Streetdrone, who are keen to be involved in the trials, said: “We expect to make our first autonomous deliveries in a vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals, early in 2024. They will make it significantly cheaper to deliver packages and groceries.”
The research firm ID Tech EX suggests that by 2050 human driving will be outlawed to prevent injury, accidents, and interference with self-driving cars communicating amongst themselves.
What will become of classic and enthusiast drivers and their cars? Will there be unregulated routes or will they only be allowed on race-tracks? A thought for Paul Jolly.
As this is not likely to be relevant for a number of us, what are the benefits in the short term?
Mobility should certainly become easier for those who have certain disabilities or fears, or who are reaching an age where they would prefer not to have the responsibility of driving themselves but would want the convenience of a private car.
There should be minimal accidents and deaths, which would save the costs of the police monitoring the roads and the costs of the NHS recovering and caring for road accident victims.
Traffic jams should be a thing of the past as traffic will be controlled before the journey starts!
Of course, there are many questions to be answered and I do not think you need to lose any sleep worrying.
Just brush up on your emoji knowledge, or on second thoughts, don’t bother. The autonomous vehicle will do it for you!
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