The government wants driverless cars on British roads by 2021, which is only three years away (blimey). So everyone needs to get a move on if they want to make that happen, and a new driverless car trial seems to be the next step. It'll involve a 200-mile journey across the UK, with cars self-navigating a range of driving conditions including high-speed roundabouts, motorways, and country roads.
The trial comes from the Human Drive Initiative, and is part of a collaboration between Groupe Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, Cranfield University, Highways England, and others. The idea being that UK roads are quite different to roads in, say, the US, so they offer more demanding challenges that self-driving cars need to be tested for. The Magic Roundabout in Swindon is probably the perfect example of shit that just doesn't happen elsewhere.
The AI systems driving the car are being designed to mimic real human driving for the occupants, and will go through serious testing before being let loose on the 200-mile route. That testing includes simulations, private roads and tracks, and eventually small sections of public road. The test itself isn't due to take place until December 2019, so the intermediary testing has plenty of time to be thorough.
Obviously the government's autonomous vehicle plans have plenty of challenges ahead, beyond that of the British road system. There's a lot of competition from the US, for instance, with companies like Google-affiliated Waymo, Lyft, and Uber all investing in driverless car systems.
But this is a big step forward, and the 200-mile route is bound to be a lot more challenging than the limited public-road testing experienced by self-driving cars in the UK so far. Here's hoping for some success, because the sooner we can sit back and relax while cars drive themselves, the better. It should hopefully appease some naysayers too. [BBC News]