Driverless 'Pods': From Science Fiction to Science Fact by 2017?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The future of travel could be closer than you might think: so-called driverless 'pod' cars could be a common sight in some UK towns as soon as 2017. Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire is leading the charge, and will reportedly be trialling 20 driverless pods by 2015, which will transport passengers between the railway station and the city centre.

Should the trial prove a success, Milton Keynes expects to have 100 of these fully-automated vehicles zipping across the town by 2017. The pods will have a two-person capacity and a maximum speed of 12 mph, and will travel on pavements alongside pedestrians rather than using the road - allowing commuters to relax reading a paper or catching up on emails on the way to work.

Years in the making, these nifty little vehicles have been developed by Google, Audi AG, BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and Arup Engineering, among other companies, in conjunction with Oxford and Cambridge universities.

While the pods might sound like something from a sci-fi novel, the developers are confident that they'll soon become the norm - and available in other towns and cities all over the UK.

The pods will work by using sensors to avoid running into any obstacles or pedestrians - or causing any unnecessary car insurance claims - and will be activated by an iPad dashboard that controls the autopilot. The dash will work in a similar way to the autopilot function on planes, calculating the right trajectories and speed needed to reach the destination safely.

Initially, the pods will be operated by human drivers until people grow accustomed to them and are assured that they're safe - after that, however, it's hoped that the pods will run on a completely automatic basis.


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