DESPITE its academic reputation, Oxford has a long history of car-making and next year this could be taken to a whole new level.
The city could become one of three places where driverless cars are tested on public roads.
At the moment the university team, which is experimenting with an autonomous Nissan that uses small cameras and lasers to navigate, can only test it on private roads like Begbroke Science Park.
But yesterday the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year – and each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.
Professor Ingmar Posner, co-leader of Oxford University’s mobile robotics group, said: “This is great news and will be really helpful as we look at how autonomous vehicles could help to ease traffic congestion and deliver a safer and more pleasant driving experience.
"It’s a real opportunity for UK cities to show how autonomous vehicles could be right at the heart of the urban transport systems of the future.”
Oxford University’s system costs around £5,000 and is controlled from an iPad on the dashboard which flashes up a prompt offering the driver the option of the car taking over on a familiar route.
Cities across the UK can now bid for a share of a £10 million competition to host a driverless cars trial.
County council leader Ian Hudspeth has said he has already had talks with the robotics team about putting in a bid.
He said: “We are considering it and we have got until October to express our interest. We have got this technology going on in Oxfordshire and we want to promote it and be there right at the forefront. It could also provide a different form of public transport.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.”
Nissan carried out the first test of a driverless car on a public road in Japan in 2013.
APPLIANCE OF SCIENCE
- The technology is built into the body of the car and linked to a computer in the boot.
- It works in areas where the technology has experience of the environment in which it is being used, as it stores previous journeys in memory.
- The system is controlled from an iPad on the dashboard which flashes up a prompt offering the driver the option of the car taking over on a familiar route.
- Touching the screen of the tablet then switches to auto drive, when the robotic system takes over.
- At any time a tap on the brake pedal will return control to the human driver.
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