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” …

  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

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

    They mess it up for the other meatsacks too - and apart from robots having faster reaction times than squishies, that's the kind of thing that onboard video will capture and make abundantly clear who's at fault.

    Up to the advent of ubiquitous dashcams, this kind of dangerous driver usually got away with it when they crashed by blaming the other car. With the advent of robodrivers, it may be possible for repeat offenders to start receiving "invitations" to resit their driving tests.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    UK testbed for autonomous vehicles yesterday.

    Waste of taxpayers money and risk to public.

    The real car makers have realistic "testbeds".

    Note that Google, Apple, Uber, Intel (who just bought Telsa's provider) etc are not real car makers. Tesla is a niche market subsidised by the taxpayer, yet only affordable by the rich. His "autopilot" is far away from being a real autonomous car.

  3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Missed opportunity

    "Human error is a more dependable source of accidents and fatalities than well tested, well demonstrated, and well regulated technologies,” Clarke said.

    The perfect cue for someone to have arranged for a driver-less car to come crashing through the wall for shits and giggles.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Missed opportunity

    I look forward to seeing self-driving cars try to negotiate the Handy Cross roundabout (M40 junction 4) during rush hour.

  5. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Re: Missed opportunity

    "I look forward to seeing self-driving cars try to negotiate the Handy Cross roundabout (M40 junction 4) during rush hour."

    Surely Hanger Lane Gyratory would be an even better test area? From Wikipedia: "In December 2007 it was named Britain's scariest junction."

    I haven't told my wife this, as I use navigating it as a test of whether I've still got all my marbles.

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Re: Missed opportunity

    Scariest Junction?

    Surely it has to be that one in Swindon where it seems that anything goes?

    IMHO and as a Motocycle rider, Handy Cross is more scary than Hanger Lane. The reason is the GP start to try to beat the lights going red in front of you. (M40South and turning right towards Maindenhead/Marlow)

  7. Rich 11 Silver badge


    a “cluster of excellence” stretching from London to, er, Birmingham into which the government will direct its support in its efforts to establish the UK as a leader in autonomous vehicles.

    Isn't the government also supporting a high speed rail link there, thus encouraging people to bypass the testbed area by taking the train?

  8. d3vy Silver badge

    I've been wondering when widespread testing would start in the UK.

    It's one thing testing on American roads, nice and wide, mostly built using a grid system. Testing in the UK where a good number of our roads follow old Roman foot paths is something altogether different.

    I for one can't wait to see how they deal with passing places and national speed limit b roads.

  9. Colin Millar

    Not to mention the mini-roundabouts - and definitely don't mention the double mini-roundabouts.

    At the top of my lane there's one of those y junctions onto a b-road - technically you are supposed to enter and exit on the left. Practically - you use right side to go right or you can't see the oncoming traffic and need to do a three point turn onto the national speed limit b-road. We have got plenty of roads with blind turnouts where you need to sight the traffic disappearing into a dip to calculate the turnout. We've also got loads of single tracks with very few (and variable quality) passing places where if you get it wrong you need to go and find a friendly farmer.

    They are, however, welcome to the M40. Used to be a regular on that road and it always seemed to me that most of the vehicles would have been better off without whatever maniac was driving them.

  10. Dwarf Silver badge

    Meaningless statistics

    Clark, in common with other speakers at the conference yesterday., emphasised the safety and societal benefits of driverless technology. Road fatalities in the UK are now 3,600 per year, compared to 6,400 in 1975. Given that 95 per cent of crashes involve human error, taking the human out of the equation will result in a massive drop in road deaths, the reasoning goes.

    There are quite a few more drivers on the more congested roads now than there were in 1975 and road building has not kept up with demand, but even against all those odds, the figure is 50% less than back then. The vastly improved safety of modern cars also has a lot to do with things as we've got better at making them.

    The bit that the stats glosses over is that "95% of crashes involve human error" - please remind me again who wrote the software for the automated death machines ?

    I'm also prepared to be that the new "funky bubble" cars that keep popping up are a lot less safe in a crash than a modern hatchback or SUV.

    I've been in charge of my body since a couple of years after I was born and if something is going to happen to me, then I want to be as much in control as possible. I don't want to become a statistic against bug number 3412-432, so don't expect to ever sell me one of these pieces of junk.

  11. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: Meaningless statistics

    "The bit that the stats glosses over is that "95% of crashes involve human error" - please remind me again who wrote the software for the automated death machines ?"

    1: Humans tend to make a serious driving error every few minutes.

    2: Robots tend not to fixate on the rear of the girl on the footpath and miss the brakelights in front of them, etc.

    3: Humans need individual training - and the results of that training are wildly variable

    4: When a change needs to be rolled out, all those humans need individual retraining.

    Road crashes tend to involve at least 2 glaringly serious errors combined.

    Even the vastly imperfect Tesla autopilot has achieved a 40% reduction in crash rates over what would be statistically expected from 100% human piloted cars - and that's according to the NHTA, which investigated the things after Joshua Brown's death(*) in the expectation of finding they were dangerous/should be banned.

    (*) There are still far too many unanswered questions about that crash, including "Where's Joshua's dashcam? He never travelled without it"

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Test Fleet

    The government could invite motor manufacturers to provide autonomous (test) vehicles to replace the fleet for of chauffeured vehicles for Ministers.

    The government saves money, and if the ministers are still in one piece after a given time, the motor industry has a group of influential supporters in government for the technology.

  13. s. pam

    M40 clucking nightmare road

    If the cars are made by BMW & Audi perhaps the damn thing can be programmed to use the inside lane! The outside lane & middle lanes of the M40 are full already, of brainless BMW & Audi driverfull cars blocking the rest of us...:(

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: M40 clucking nightmare road

    Just flash them then and they'll move over. Or the horn if that doesn't work.

    Also applies to every other road hog, regardless of your personal prejudices (but hey, at least you let your hatred out!).

  15. FlossyThePig

    Re: M40 clucking nightmare road

    Highway Code

    Rule 268. Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right.

    The magic words are "Do not" which means the rule is advisory rather than "Must/Must not" which is used to state that the rule is law. It is not illegal to pass on the inside lane, just take care.

  16. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: M40 clucking nightmare road

    " It is not illegal to pass on the inside lane, just take care."


    Beware though: If you pass on the left and the passee moves left on you, you're likely to find yourself facing careless driving charges - even if they're doing 35mph in the right lane and listening to Charlie and the Cockroaches at full volume, so not hearing the horns behind them.

    Last trip I took up the M1, I counted 80 instances of laneblocking between the M25 and M6. It's pretty clear that the law change isn't helping much. I also saw a large number of potentially dangerous passing moves to get past the idiots causing the slowdowns so cracking down on the former has potential to cause significant reduction in the latter. (The problem at the moment is that only patrolling police can issue a ticket, only on the spot and only if they witness it occurring for some time beforehand.)

  17. dollface

    This may be of interest to some people


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