Bristolians may be surprised to hear that driverless cars could appear on their streets from as early as next year.
The futuristic idea is set to be put into motion (quite literally) after the city received £5million in funding. The funding has been provided for a consortium called Venturer, which includes engineering firm Atkins, Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and insurance firm Axa.
The development of driverless cars in Bristol was announced recently in an Autumn Statement. The aim of the driverless car project in Bristol is to test whether they are a viable option for the future to decrease congestion and make roads safer. If the tests are successful and show the cars to be viable then they will be rolled out all over the UK and beyond.
It is believed that the cars could be quite similar to the pods used at Heathrow Airport that ferry passengers to and from the terminals. However instead of running on tracks, they would be completely free-standing.
Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said the project was a feather in the city’s cap:
“Bristol has a deserved reputation as an innovative city and test-bed for new technologies,” he said.
“As such we are delighted to be part of the Venturer project that brings together high-quality knowledge and development with an enthusiasm for creating digital solutions.”
Could driverless cars reduce congestion?
Most traffic congestion on the road is built up by bad driver judgements. The obvious advantage of driverless cars is that they will programmed to drive “perfectly.” Therefore there will be no more backups caused by humans who make errors merging onto motorways, swapping lanes and taking exits. Not to mention misjudging traffic and blocking roads by being stuck in queueing traffic. Traffic light crossroads will also be performed in perfect synchronisation.
However it does not mean that driverless cars will be one hundred percent accident free. Therefore they must go through lengthy testing periods to ensure they will be safer than the traditional cars we use at the moment. Test periods in Bristol are set to be for at least 3 years.
What do driverless cars need such lengthy testing periods?
There are some hefty risks to having driverless cars on the roads. Most obviously it is that an autonomous car does not have any human judgement. Therefore if a person was to be hit by a driverless car then they may be deemed unsafe by the Government and their use would be restricted.
Exact details of where the scheme will operate in Bristol and when it will happen are yet to be decided. However it is definite that the project will run over three years and could see test cars on the streets next year. We don’t know about you, but it seems the self driving Audi concept car in the movie iRobot is one step nearer to coming to life.