Driverless cars could offer greatest benefit along country roads

April 29 2015  

Driverless cars could offer greatest benefit along country roads
Rural roads rather than city streets offer the best possibilities for driverless vehicles, according to university academics in Wales.
Engineers at Glyndwr University have said that autonomous cars could provide the answer to poor public transport provision in deserted areas. They also argue that driverless vehicles have the potential to be used most effectively on “steep, narrow, slow and sinuous” roads.
The academics are now calling for trials of driverless cars to be carried out on rural roads in Wales.
Driverless vehicles, they say, have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life in more remote areas of the country, where they could be used as taxis.
“We believe that driverless cars have real potential to deliver a sustainable rural economy for Wales,” said University lecturer in low carbon Barry Johnston.
He pointed out that Wales has seen a decline in rural populations as more young people move to larger cities to find work. The offset of this, he added, has been that public transport links have become increasingly infrequent – and non-existent in some areas.
“I think we’re looking at five to 10 years before something like this (the introduction of driverless cars in rural Wales) could become a reality. It would of course need the consent of people living in rural areas, with all of their concerns addressed.”
The group has submitted its views to the Welsh Government to help inform a Transport Strategy for Wales. It proposed that opportunities to trial use of the vehicles should be prioritised in Wales, subject to local consultation.
Tri-County Strategic Alliance (Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire) programme director and transport technology specialist Martin Tugwell said: “There may well be opportunities for rural communities to benefit from the availability of autonomy in vehicles. It may well allow people to live in more rural areas and maintain, or even improve, a level of access at a lower cost.”
Road Safety Markings Association director George Lee welcomed the likely social and road safety benefits of trialling driverless cars in rural areas. “In principle it is a fantastic idea,” he said, “but we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to make sure the cars can function, and this means an effective road marking network.”
(Photo: Transport Systems Catapult)

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