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Driverless cars arrive in UK

It is well known that Google has been testing a driverless car in the US for some time now. Apparently the vehicle has been licensed to drive without human control in many US states. Now Volvo has tested the first driverless car on public UK roads but their approach may be a little easier to accept for the driving public.

It is well known that Google has been testing a driverless car in the US for some time now. Apparently the vehicle has been licensed to drive without human control in many US states. Now Volvo has tested the first driverless car on public UK roads but their approach may be a little easier to accept for the driving public. The car, tested recently on London streets, promotes a computer controlled driving model as a safety aid and it is intended to be included alongside normal driving controls. The system works by a combination of cameras and radars, detecting other road users along with road markings. 

The driverless mode can be instigated by a simple push button start and a computer then takes control of brakes, engine and steering. It will direct the car to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and can be operated day or night. Volvo is describing the system as an additional layer of protection for the driver, providing a failsafe backup in case the driver's mind wanders during long and tedious motorway journeys, or he is simply momentarily distracted in busy urban traffic. In such cased the system will instantly take over if it perceives a risk and will brake or steer to avoid accidents. Clearly, the system would be useful in cases of drivers falling asleep at the wheel on long journeys. The driver can take back control at any time. 

Volvo engineer, Erik Coelingh, explains the thinking behind the system: "The driver still has to supervise it. It is intended to make motorway driving much more relaxing. The car pays attention all the time, the technology does not get tired. The radar regulates the speed by judging the distance from car in front, while the camera recognises not only vehicles but lane markings." Unlike Google's system which still seems a long way off, Volvo intends the technology to be available on its cars by the end of 2014. 

The belief behind the trials is that eliminating human error from car driving will make cars far safer and vastly reduce accidents such as rear end shunts, which make up so much of the accident statistics in busy urban traffic. Unlike Google's approach, the driver still remains in control and can continue to enjoy driving in the knowledge that there is a failsafe in place should his attention wander. The system forms a central plank of Volvo's stated target that nobody will ever be killed or seriously injured in its cars after 2020.

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