Self driving cars to be tested in London
Nissan today announced that they will soon begin limited trials of self-driving cars on the streets of London, with the blessing of the UK Government. The self-driving car scene is already fairly well developed in the USA with both Google and Tesla racking up millions of test miles, but this is not the case across the Atlantic Ocean. These Nissan vehicles will be the first driverless cars to hit the streets of Europe and are sure to attract a lot of interest and close scrutiny.
And these are very much a preliminary round of tests. The general public will not have access to the driverless cars and will instead have to watch safety experts and regulators test the vehicles with the assistance of an emergency backup driver to ensure safety. In addition, this modified version of Nissan Leaf – equipped with radar, laser and camera systems – is not expected to hit the commercial market until 2020 at the earliest.
The debate around self-driving cars continues to rage, but that is to be expected given that it is a brand new technology which is seemingly destined to change not only the car industry but also society.
1,732 people were killed and a further 22,137 people were injured in car accidents in the UK in 2015. The final figures for 2016 are not yet available but they are unlikely to be any less unpleasant. All the available evidence points to self-driving cars having the ability to reduce these numbers considerably but there is certainly a psychological burden to overcome before they are fully adopted.
In the meantime, the companies producing this technology must continue to test it rigorously and remove as much doubt as possible. It is likely that urban tests in the UK’s capital will have the dual benefit of providing data on how self-driving cars handle themselves in an extremely busy urban environment as well as getting a sceptical public used to the idea of semi-autonomous road vehicles.
Only time will tell, but it is an encouraging sign that the government is embracing this new technology rather than casting it aside without trying it at all.