Driverless Cars
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Back to the Future: Towards Driverless Cars

Driverless Cars: the Future of the Roads

Gone are the days when autonomous, self-driving vehicles were a concept reserved for science fiction films and tech fantasies. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom, where the Government continues to assert its objective of becoming a global leader in self-driving cars. Indeed, Government research suggests that in the UK alone, the industry will grow by over £28 billion over the next 17 years.

Despite continued research and investment into artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, the concept of self-driving cars remains in its infancy. However, this hasn’t stopped the British Government from introducing rafts of legislation around the issue, including codes of practice for the testing of autonomous vehicles. As a result of this preparation, several trials have been launched across the UK. The government has claimed that such preparations are being made with the goal of having the vehicles road-safe and commercially viable by 2021.

Even in the United States, where autonomous vehicles have become the latest talking point in Silicon Valley, fully driverless trials have only taken place on a limited scale. In the UK, the Government claims that unmanned vehicle trials will be commenced on public roads by the end of 2019 – meaning that 2020 will be set to be an important year in the automotives industry. The Department of Transport has suggested that these trials will place the UK at a great advantage over international competition (as well as offering stable industrial revenue in the event of a no-deal Brexit).

Despite the Government’s ambitious targets of launching the industry by 2021, concerns have been raised around whether obstacles and concerns around the technology can be addressed in time. One such issue centres around the risk of cyber attacks upon autonomous vehicles – a possibility that would represent a catastrophic blow to the industry. Leading authorities in the field of cyber security have suggested that the technology must be protected by new, robust cyber security defences – hindering and preventing the efforts of malicious hackers.

Ambitious trials launched in April when 100 motorists prototyped a driverless car around a two-mile circuit over a 3 week period around London’s O2 Arena. It has been recently announced the driverless lorries will be the next vehicles to undergo trialling after the Department of Transport announced over £8.1 million in funding for that purpose.

Current British plans mean that driverless cars will be driven in what is referred to as a “platoon” just yards apart in a bid to reduce costs and negative environmental impacts. The advent of driverless cars has been referred to as the “next industrial revolution” by commentators across the field.

The current industry received a significant boost in the Autumn Budget when Chancellor Phillip Hammond pledged £150 million for training and research projects.

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