Elizabeth Box, head of research at the RAC Foundation, has told NCE that ensuring roads are up to standard would be vital to ensure that automated vehicles would work. She also said that there were questions as to how driverless cars would interact with pedestrians and cyclists.
“What happens to walking and cycling?” she asked. “This technology might initially become more common in urban environments.”
The RAC Foundation is on the advisory board of the £8m Gateway project to evaluate driverless technology in Greenwich and Box said that there were a number of major challenges.
“Some of the technology in driverless vehicles relies on white lines, so road maintenance will be important. There are also questions about segregating pedestrians and vehicles – the way the infrastructure is developed depends on how the cars are ultimately used.”
However, as driverless cars would effectively communicate with one another, they could theoretically reduce congestion and run more efficiently.
“Cars would not operate in isolation anymore, so we could have a much more efficient system, along with more optimal braking and fuel use. Drivers are sceptical about losing control of their vehicles but over the next five to 10 years it will become much more familiar.”
However, RAC Foundation director, Stephen Glaister, pointed out that the technology could also mean more vehicles on the road.
“The door is open for almost everyone to have motorised mobility, from the very old to the very young to the frail. If you do away with licensing requirements then millions more people – and cars – could be on the road.
“The development of autonomous vehicles needs to go hand in hand with changes in highway management and car ownership.”
The government is currently in the process of rewriting legislation in a bid to ensure the UK becomes a world leader in driverless technology with one of the major issues being to establish who would be responsible in the event of a collision. Glaister has previously said that there is likely to be a shift from personal to product liability. Changes will be made to the Highway Code and MOT test guidelines with a new code of practice due within the next few months.