There are two major technological pushes going on within the automotive industry. First of all, manufacturers want to move away from combustion-based powertrains towards hybrids and all-electric solutions. Secondly, they want to produce cars without steering wheels. Yes, you read that correctly. Some of the biggest brands in all things car want to produce driverless vehicles and soon. So fast is the pace of their commitment that the British government believes they’ll be on our roads within three to four years. But as with all great leaps forward, there are a number of hanging question marks…
Driverless cars aim to revolutionise how we travel. The usual promises are that they’ll be more convenient, safer and better suited to the challenges of strained road infrastructure. Swedish manufacturer Volvo believes they’ll eliminate the short flights industry, as people will prefer to travel by driverless car than queue for hours at customs. The company’s ‘360c’ concept even has different interior layouts, including one for sleeping, socialising and hosting conferences. Its elegant and futuristic design, which speaks of the near-future rather than the far-future, embodies all that the technology represents.
But how, exactly, will driverless cars work? There are a number of driverless cars being tested in America but, as it stands, they must have a human driver in them at all times. In addition, they travel amongst fleets of driven cars on largely unaffected infrastructure. How will the situation change when there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of driverless cars on the road? A recent competition has identified two groundbreaking ideas that could help prepare Britain’s roads for the coming technological interregnum.
The ‘Roads of the Future’ competition, hosted by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has identified two ideas capable of preparing the roads for driverless car technology. The two winners, Leeds City Council and City Science, will both receive a reward of £25,000 for having their entries selected. Leeds City Council investigated how driverless cars would be able to ‘talk’ to one and other in order to make traffic light sequencing more efficient. City Science looked into how roads in urban areas could prioritise driverless cars, encouraging their utilisation. The competition was launched in January and received 81 entries. These were reduced to just five, which then had three months to refine and develop their proposals.
Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the NIC, said “the vehicles of tomorrow will be very different to those we see around us today. We need to make sure our roads are ready for this revolution. With such a strong shortlist narrowing down the entries was no easy task, but the ideas put forward by City Science and Leeds set them apart. I’ve been really pleased by the enthusiasm for our competition, and I hope it leads to ever-greater interest not just in the technology in the vehicles, but also in the roads they will travel on.”
Laurence Oakes-Ash, City Science’s chief executive, said of the win “City Science is delighted to be joint winners of this fantastic competition. Over the past three months, this project has given us the opportunity to explore the enormous potential of CAVs and set out a tangible vision to deliver their benefits on the UK’s roads.” Richard Lewis executive member for regeneration, transport and planning for Leeds City Council, said “it’s a fantastic achievement for Leeds City Council to be recognised nationally for our work on transport innovation. We want Leeds to be a smart city and at the forefront of developing technologies to help transform our transport network to improve people’s everyday lives.”
Driverless or not, your car will need regular maintenance. With over 16,000 approved garages, a 24/7 support service and a host of cost-saving offers, we can keep your car moving smoothly. Call one of our professional Service Advisers on 0121 521 3500 for more details.