The future is here, and it’s moving at 15mph
The eerie spectacle of a driverless vehicle gliding past will soon move from the realm of the horror film to reality.
Tests of driverless cars are to begin in Greenwich as of today.
But could this be the dawn of a new age for commuters? According to the Evening Standard, the average driver spends 235 hours a year stuck at the wheel, simply driving, when they might be otherwise engaged.
This could equal six weeks a year of new free time for drivers as they are ferried about in pods chauffeured by computers.
The government would like the UK to become a world leader when it comes to driverless vehicles, and it is set to publish a code of practice in the coming months which will allow further testing of autonomous cars to go ahead.
This will include re-writing the Highway Code and adjustments to MoT guidelines.
The autonomous vehicles hitting the roads around Greenwich today are electric buggies that have the non-threatening appearance of a milk-float crossed with a golf cart.
— Dept for Business (@bisgovuk) February 11, 2015
Testing is also taking place in Coventry and Milton Keynes. But instead of the milk/golf waggon, some pretty flashy two-person pods have been unveiled.
— BBC Cov Warks (@BBCCovWarks) February 11, 2015
The driverless cars will run at 15mph, which is by no means a profligate pace, but given that the average driving speed in central London between 7am and 7pm is a piddling 8mph, they can certainly keep up.
As part of the trials, Greenwich Council has temporarily closed some cycle lanes to accommodate the driverless cars.
According to a planning notice, the riverside lanes will be closed for 21 days.
— Darryl (@darryl1974) February 9, 2015
Back to the future
Despite lots of tests being underway, experts predict that it will still be at least a decade until we’re whirling along the roads in private computer-chauffeured pods. It’s not that long really.
A fundamental battle which must be won will be in convincing the public that driverless cars are safe and useful.
In a similar way to how we are now used to people apparently talking and gesticulating to themselves on the street as they yap into earpieces, perhaps autonomous vehicles will scarcely raise an eyebrow when they slither past us in the years to come.