Driverless cars, or “fully autonomous” vehicles could be on the UK’s roads in the late 2020s, according to a Government report.
However, before technology reaches that stage, vehicles will become available which can undertake increasingly large proportions of journeys autonomously - known as “high automation” - while still requiring that a driver takes manual control some of the time.
That’s the conclusion of a Department for Transport review, carried out over the past six months, which considered the best and safest ways to trial automated vehicles where an individual is ready to take control of the car if necessary.
The report says that “highly automated” vehicles may only offer an automated mode under certain very specific driving conditions such as highway cruising or in low speed conditions. However, as technology develops, vehicles will be able to undertake driving duties autonomously for a greater and greater proportion of the time.
A “highly automated” vehicle will require a driver to perhaps take manual control for some parts of the journey. Under certain traffic, road or weather conditions, the vehicle’s automation systems may request the driver to take control.
“Fully automated” vehicles will be designed to be capable of safely completing journeys without the need for a driver in all normally encountered traffic, road and weather conditions.
As a result, occupants of “fully automated” vehicles will be able to engage in tasks other than driving for the entire journey from reading a book, to surfing the web, using a hand-held mobile phone, or a laptop, watching a film or chatting face to face with other passengers.
The report was published as the Government gave the green light for the testing of driverless cars on public roads in trials to start later this year in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry.