The British government has declared that autonomous vehicles are the future of transport in the country. The goal is to have autonomous vehicles on the roads by 2025 to make transportation safer and more efficient. However, a recent parliamentary committee report warns of the risks associated with introducing autonomous vehicles onto the roads.
But what exactly is an autonomous vehicle? It is a vehicle that can travel all or most of the route without human intervention. There are different levels of autonomy, from driver assistance features like cruise control to fully autonomous vehicles that require no human intervention.
The government expects autonomous vehicles to lead to safer and less congested roads, as well as better transport connectivity in rural areas, improved access to transport for people with mobility problems and cheaper and more reliable public transport.
In terms of operations, autonomous vehicles use various technologies to control their movements. These include lidar, which uses laser beams to detect objects around the vehicle, radar, which measures the speed of objects, mapping, which provides a frame of reference for the vehicle’s operation, and communications technology to connect to infrastructure and other vehicles.
The government claims autonomous vehicles will improve road safety by reducing human error. Citing a claim from the Institute of Engineering and Technology that out of 10,000 mistakes human drivers make, an autonomous vehicle makes only one. Given that human error is a common cause of accidents on UK roads, eliminating this possibility of error is expected to significantly improve safety.
However, there are also significant risks associated with autonomous vehicles. The Transportation Select Committee warns of the possibility of large-scale cyberattacks that could result in large numbers of victims. There are concerns that malicious actors could take control of autonomous vehicles, jeopardizing the safety of passengers. Additionally, there is also concern that driving skills will decline as drivers become increasingly reliant on autonomous technology.
The Highway Code recognizes that autonomous vehicles have limitations and may require the driver to regain control in certain situations. It is the driver’s responsibility to be ready to regain control of the vehicle at any time.
In summary, while autonomous vehicles have the potential to enable safer and more efficient transportation, there are still risks that need to be taken into account. It is crucial to strike a balance between innovation and ensuring passenger safety on the road.