back to article UK gov draws driverless car test zone around M40 corridor

A UK minister has reassured the motor industry that buyers of driverless cars will not have to employ a gentleman with a red flag and top hat as he outlined a UK testbed for autonomous vehicles yesterday. Speaking at the SMTT Connected conference in London, industry secretary Greg Clark outlined a “cluster of excellence” …

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"that buyers of driverless cars"

So where can I buy one then?

These people are in cloud cuckoo land.

I predict in 20 years time you will still not be able to buy an autonomous vehicle for general road use.

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

"I predict in 20 years time you will still not be able to buy an autonomous vehicle for general road use."

Good. Can you imagine how many idiots who can't be arsed to learn to drive decide to buy a driverless car to take them to Tesco?

Hellooooooooooooooooo gridlock.

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Terminator

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

I suspect most people who don't have a car do so because they either can't afford one (so they wouldn't be able to afford a driverless car either) or they can't be bothered driving where they live (e.g. London, where you can get by without a car fairly easily). Add in the fact that driverless cars should ease gridlock by driving better (less having to hammer on brakes, smoother drives, no slowing down to rubber-neck, etc), I don't think it's as bad as you might be worried about.

Of course, the roads are getting busier year on year, so in 20 years time, who knows what mess they'll be in?

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

I wasn't considering the "better driving" of the automated cars, it's the fact you'd have a lot more cars on the road. So it was purely a volume thing I was on about.

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

You know that you basically already can, right? OK, I appreciate that we're not quite at fully-autonomous, but 20 years is a very long time.

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Devil

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

Also there is concern that autopilots on ships and aircraft result in LESS ability [for the human] to deal with the unexpected.

There is talk of changing the design of aircraft autopilots so that that the human is more involved and thus able to correctly assess what to do (c.f. Air France over the Atlantic, the human intervention was the opposite of what was needed).

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

Of course, the roads are getting busier year on year, so in 20 years time, who knows what mess they'll be in?

But all the migrants will have left by then, so the traffic will be flowing freely once more like on a 1950s motorway film. At least that's what my mate Nigel down the pub says.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

And have to use their SatNav to get to Tesco even though it is 400yds down the road and can be clearly seen before they start.

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

>but 20 years is a very long time.

but 20+ years ago AI was the happening thing...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

I'll take that bet...

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

@Mage

There is talk of changing the design of aircraft autopilots so that that the human is more involved and thus able to correctly assess what to do (c.f. Air France over the Atlantic, the human intervention was the opposite of what was needed).

Indeed, it's already happened. The A350 apparently 'makes' the pilots do more flying themselves, though this is as much about mandating more pilot hand flying time in the operations manual (which airlines have to follow to be licensed) as any technical changes to the autopilot itself.

The same approach won't work with cars; people's driving isn't logged, monitored and regulated like a pilot's flying, and introducing such oversight isn't going to be an option. So I think with driving it's an all or nothing situation. Either we do all the driving ourselves (adaptive cruise control is allowed), or the car automation is perfect and does it all the time.

The difficulty for the self drive industry is as follows. A self driving system that is nearly perfect is more dangerous (in the long run) than one that is rubbish.

In the UK, roads are designed with driver psychology taken into account. We don't build straight roads anymore to stop drivers getting too bored.

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

Want to make a bet?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

>but 20 years is a very long time.

Yeah, it's more than 20 years since we had a proper transport policy.

And my current 1999 Peugeot 306 diesel does exactly the same as most of today's cars: same pollution, same auto windscreen wipers, same stork radio controls, air cooling system, rear window heater and 750 miles out of a tank of fuel. It hasn't got cruise control, satnav (I use phone instead) or mp3 (upgraded years ago) or a dual mass flywheel but it's done me for the best part of 20 years.

Reliability isn't something you'll be associating with safety critical autonomous car systems any time soon - evey sensor failure will stop you using it.

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Unhappy

Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

"And have to use their SatNav to get to Tesco even though it is 400yds down the road and can be clearly seen before they start."

Last year I had the dubious pleasure of travelling with what I loosely call a colleague[1] who drove entirely by SatNav, deliberately ignoring road signs which were quite clear.

He totally missed some roadworks diversion signs and was completely baffled when the road turned into a building site.

[1] He was from HR and a definite candidate for Ark B.

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Re: "that buyers of driverless cars"

> "or the car automation is perfect"

> "A self driving system that is nearly perfect is more dangerous (in the long run) than one that is rubbish."

I don't agree. Car automation just has to be better than humans for it to be worthwhile.

Currently 10 people a day die on the roads of the UK. If 100% car automation is only twice as safe and so kills 5 people a day, we'll be saving 1,800 lives a year.

There's no such thing as "perfect" and to put any technology on a pedestal of expected perfection is to doom it to failure from the outset.

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Technology to save lives

How about a better, faster, cheaper public transport system (most of us not in London have to endure dismal public transport ).

Less cars on the road / less car journeys = more lives saved with no magic technology fairydust required.

This post may be partially related to me just checking the price of some train tickets for UK travel and going "How ******* much?!?!, you must be ******* joking"

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Re: Technology to save lives

More and bigger public transport won't work. You can't get a bus down my lane and it's too far to walk to the nearest bus stop even without shopping so I just get in the car.

A fleet of publicly owned driverless cars may work if there are enough for them to be treated as cheap taxis and they may be better for the environment if there are so many that there is always a free one nearby (that's why taxis are so bad - they spend half their journeys with just the driver i.e. zero passengers).

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Re: Technology to save lives

@ Natalie Gritpants

How far away is bus stop for it to be regarded as out of walking distance?

Just out of interest as depending on what distance people regard as too far could make a difference to what % of people would be regarded as too far from public transport.

Ironically, on the walking topic, it makes more sense for me to walk home from my nearest train station than take a bus home.

Buses and trains both only run hourly, bus stop a couple of minutes walk from station, however bus leaves approx 5 minutes before train arrives in a monumentally stupid piece of timetabling.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

Are you some kind of madman? That would require some sort of, oh I don't know, integrated transport policy! Next you'l be suggesting that public transport should exist to transport the public, rather than to enrichen shareholders!

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Re: Technology to save lives

A fleet of electric autonomous vehicles for hire would be a public transport system. Just nitpicking.

It's said that most rural buses only have a handful of passengers most of the time but need more capacity when they get into towns. My own experience bears this out. So electric taxis could be more efficient than buses in terms of capacity and energy consumption. I say could be. Prediction is always risky, especially about the future.

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Re: Technology to save lives

"How far away is bus stop for it to be regarded as out of walking distance?"

In Northern Ireland and Greater Manchester, 400 meters, in California, 300 meters.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

How far away is bus stop for it to be regarded as out of walking distance?

Any distance at all, IMHO. If I wanted to share a dirty enclosed space with the fat, the smelly, the weird, the anti-social, the deranged, and assorted ratboy vermin from social class F then I'd happily hop on the slow, smelly, uncomfortable bus. And funny thing is, there's only ever two types of bus I see - the almost entirely empty ones for most of the day, and then the hideously overcrowded ones at peak hours.

And that's the real problem with any form of public transport - not poor planning, but poor asset utilisation because traffic flows are not homogenous, and the fact that people don't always want to go to the same places at the same time. My morning commute is 45 minutes by car. Fastest public transport is 2 hours 4 minutes using bus and train, and 2 hours 45 using just bus, and that's using relatively well interconnected services around Birmingham.

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Re: Technology to save lives

That's me told, I'm social class F then! You missed out the obligatory inbetweeners "bus w****r" though ;-)

I like buses e.g. otherwise I would have a very long and erratic walk back from the (4 miles away) pub - would not fancy driving in that beer enhanced (FSVO enhanced!) state

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Re: Technology to save lives

How about a better, faster, cheaper public transport system

Well, of course, autonomous rail systems have been around for quite a while now. There are even some in London, but they all have staff on board because apparently passengers don't feel safe in the hands of a robot, despite the fact that the signalling systems are designed to be failsafe and communicate unambigously from machine to machine.

I still don't understand why passengers are supposed to have more confidence is a small autonomous vehicle that is trying to manoeuvre amongst lots of other small vehicles, most of which are not autonomous, essentially trying to guess what those other vehicles might be doing and attempting to infer signalling information from lights and signs designed for human drivers.

If you're intending to move towards ubiquitous autonomous transport, then you should really skip the step of mixing self-driving cars with those carrying meatsack pilots.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

Visit any public toilet in the country in order to understand why cheap autonomous taxis will not work as an idea.

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Re: Technology to save lives

More and bigger public transport won't work. You can't get a bus down my lane and it's too far to walk to the nearest bus stop even without shopping so I just get in the car.

You're not everyone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

Yeah, strange that London, that hotbed of UK capitalism, was the one place allowed to keep a regulated public transport system while the rest of us have to put up with a non-regulated mess. Another example of how privatisation only works if you regulate the resulting market to avoid the (natural) tendency to form monopolies, just like we do in other markets.

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Re: Technology to save lives

"How about a better, faster, cheaper public transport system (most of us not in London have to endure dismal public transport )."

How about reversing the aggregation of work places into bigger and bigger urban centres? The people wouldn't have to commute stupid distances to work.

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Re: Technology to save lives

"A fleet of publicly owned driverless cars may work if there are enough for them to be treated as cheap taxis"

Where does the money come from?

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Re: Technology to save lives

How far?

In London it seems that they stop every 100m. They were not always that close. In one stretch of the old 253 Route (Warren St to Stamfrd Hill and beyond) where there was two stops there are now four. Two extra ones have been added in between the others. The same goes elswhere. IT takes even longer to get anywhere in London if you go by Bus than it did 50 years ago and not all of that is down to traffic as back then there were no bus lanes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

London, that hotbed of UK capitalism, was the one place allowed to keep a regulated public transport system

As a regular user of London's public transport, I'd like to voice the opinion that it is shit. Totally and utterly shit. Painfully, slow, overcrowded, uncomfortable, and at times unsafe. It is only the considerable effort devoted by the public sector to screwing over car-based transport that make public transport not an option of choice, but an evil necessity.

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Re: Technology to save lives

Yes, but how far is it from that road to the next closest road that buses drive along? About half that distance plus 50 meters is maximum distance you have to walk to get to a bus stop.

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Coat

Re: Technology to save lives

"How far away is bus stop for it to be regarded as out of walking distance?"

That depends on age, physical fitness and how heavy (and how many) bags of shopping to be transported.

Coat. It looks like rain and the bus stop is nearly half a mile away. Uphill. In the snow. Both ways. And I know I'm lucky to have that.

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Joke

@tiggity: Re: Technology to save lives

> bus leaves approx 5 minutes before train arrives in a monumentally stupid piece of timetabling

Alternatively, the bus arrives early enough to drop off people who want to catch the train, in a rare piece of timetabling synchronisation (Assuming 3 minutes is enough time to buy a ticket)

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Re: Technology to save lives

If you want to properly use technology to save lives and ease congestion in the cities, why not spend the money on a really good broadband network and get rid of the idiotic notion that communication must be face-to-face? Some jobs will always require a physical body in the room, but I'd suspect that at least half could just telecommute. The numbers will level off the more rural you get, of course, but that countryside isn't the part where gridlock is the problem.

The other difference is that a really widespread and robust broadband infrastructure could be used for other things as well. Driverless cars, less so.

I'm not going to even begin to point out the obvious things, like allow the cars to travel at reasonable speeds and widening roads. Those are quite clearly madness to a politician.

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aks

Re: Technology to save lives

Why publicly owned? Uber want to provide that, efficiently.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

"You can't get a bus down my lane".

If there's full autonomy you won't have large buses. It'd likely be built around passenger vans.

In places with cheap drivers you have jitneys and dolmuses. If drivers are expensive larger buses are more economical. With (affordable) autonomy the model is again based on cheap drivers. That allows for more, smaller vehicles giving more flexible, faster public transportation, and can allow lower density areas to be served at reasonable cost.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Technology to save lives

It might be shit but at least London has it. BTW London gets seven times more spent on public transport per head than most of the rest of us.

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So what now, join the AAA (Automated Automobile Association) ?

Or maybe the RAC (Real Automated Carnage) !

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A UK minister has reassured the motor industry that buyers of driverless cars will not have to employ a gentleman with a red flag and top hat

What a shame, I was looking forward to seeing that happen on the M25...

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"UK...leader"...?

"government will direct its support in its efforts to establish the UK as a leader in autonomous vehicles"

Seriously? Where are we at the moment? Google, Apple, Tesla are all years ahead. Have we got even a single manufacturer working on this - and I mean under UK ownership?

This is another frog puffing out its chest to make itself appear bigger and grander than it is. But it's still a frog, and the UK is still an insignificant dot on the map.

Meaningless political soundbite with little actual intention to provide serious funding or support.

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Re: "UK...leader"...?

Google, Apple, Tesla are all years ahead. Have we got even a single manufacturer working on this - and I mean under UK ownership?

Fair point. But I'll bet you that none of them has thought about producing an autonomous car that drives on the left.

And before you shoot me down, I'll remind you that Google Glass was available only for the right eye.

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Re: "UK...leader"...?

Have we got even a single manufacturer working on this - and I mean under UK ownership?

FTFY

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "UK...leader"...?

the UK is still an insignificant dot on the map

Here we go again. The UK is the world's largest economies, one of the most significant and respected trading nations on the planet. Our motor industry turns over about £70bn a year, mass makers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, BMW et al have large facitilies here, we're a world leader in premium cars with manufacturing and design for Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Bentley, there's 6 design centres, 13 R&D centres, we're the base of several world leading vehicle engineering specialists.

Have we got even a single manufacturer working on this - and I mean under UK ownership?

Domicile of the owning entity is irrelevant. We tried "owning" our motor industry by nationalising it. That went well, didn't it? Now look at JLR flourishing as part of the Tata Group. Why is Nissan's European Design Centre in London?

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aks

Ownership is where the owners (shareholders) live. Decision makers (directors) usually live where the head office is registered. Where the smart and grunt work is done are usually scattered.

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Re: "UK...leader"...?

Probably not, I mean a real manufacturer. But you know who the middleman will be - of course BAe.

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Re: "UK...leader"...?

> Our motor industry turns over about £70bn a year

Brexit will fix that.

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Re: "UK...leader"...?

@smudge

...I'll bet you that none of them has thought about producing an autonomous car that drives on the left...

Nissan has, look at the Fully Charged video

http://www.fullychargedshow.co.uk/previous-episodes#/autonomous-nissan-leaf/

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The biggest problem autonomous vehicles will have is non-autonomous vehicles.

No matter how complex the electronics, a person signalling right and turning left, or going straight on, will always mess it up!

Simply: autonomous cars will easily manage if they're on a road with similar vehicles.

Put one car driven by a person in the mix, and anything will happen.

And if every vehicle is driverless, there will be no reason to own a vehicle. Just call one from the idle-auto-car carpark.

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"And if every vehicle is driverless, there will be no reason to own a vehicle. Just call one from the idle-auto-car carpark."

And see how successful you are at that because everyone else wants one at the same time. It's called rush-hour.

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