Safety reassurances over driverless cars as Birmingham test site announced
The public are being assured about the safety of driverless vehicles after it was announced that 50 miles of roads across the region will be used for testing the new technology.
Mayor Andy Street and several industry experts said safety was at the forefront of the revolutionary plans which could make the area a world leader for Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technology.
It was this week announced that a consortium of organisations from both the public and private sectors will be developing roads across Birmingham and Coventry for the project.
It will be the largest, most diverse testing environment in the UK.
It will also feature the deployment of new roadside infrastructure including smart vehicle monitoring, data analytics and 5G ready wireless.
However some people remain unconvinced. In March this year an Arizonan woman became the first pedestrian to be killed after being struck by a driverless car, while the passenger in another model died just a few days later in California when his car crashed into a barrier.
But Meridian Mobility CEO Dr Daniel Ruiz, whose company is responsible for putting together the whole of the UK’s offering to the world in relation to development of CAVs, highlighted the UK’s excellent safety policies as the main reason why the public shouldn’t be concerned about the technology.
“The UK has been rated number one in the world for the policy behind the development of all these technologies. And that policy means safety is at the forefront of what we’re doing,” he said.
“We are recognised as being number one in policy and number two in development in this area. This means that lots of companies are going to come to the UK which is obviously very beneficial to industry and the economy in the West Midlands.”
This was a point echoed by Professor Paul Jennings, whose organisation WMG is heading up the project. “New mobility technology and services will lead to safer, greener and more efficient transportation for both people and goods,” he said.
“There has to be a lot of infrastructure, and it’s very costly, but most importantly of all it needs to be safe.
“But people’s cars now are already starting to gain a level of autonomy. People are aware of things like assisted braking, self parking, lane adjustment.
“These are autonomous features that have already been introduced to vehicles. So there is a slow transition toward the long term goal of a driverless future.”
Mayor Andy Street was also keen to put people’s minds at ease in regards to the technology, reminding the public that driverless cars are already being tested on Coventry’s roads.
“It is true that on the streets of Coventry at the moment there are autonomous vehicles being tested,” he said.
“Now at the moment, just to reassure people for safety, all of those vehicles have to have a co-driver in them, in case they need to intervene in any way.
“But to be absolutely clear, it is happening on the streets of Coventry already.”