Up until now, the idea of self-driving cars has been something relegated to science-fiction books and cinema, but vehicles that don’t need input from their drivers in order to operate could spell cheaper car insurance for the nation’s motorists, industry experts say.
However, legal issues have by-and-large kept the idea of driverless cars little more than a pipe dream, even in the face of promises that such vehicles would deliver better fuel efficiency and improved safety, thus reducing the cost of motoring through less frequent stops at garages and less expensive car insurance rates. Limited technology, such as automatic lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, has been available for nearly a decade, but many have been reluctant to hand over their safety to autonomous vehicles.
Yet concerns about self-driving cars and their safety pale in comparison to worldwide figures indicating that more than 1 million people lose their lives in road traffic accidents on an annual basis, says University of Oxford robotics engineer, Paul Newman. Mr Newman, part of an engineering team working on the development of self-driving vehicle technology, feels that it’s ‘crazy’ to think that the modern motorist in a decade or two would still need to keep their attention on the road before them, concentrating on road safety instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride.
The Oxford team has plans to approach the Government soon for a permit to test their technology on roadways in the UK, following on the lead of other researchers across the world such as a group working out of the Free University of Berlin.