Are driverless cars a steer in the right direction?

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Last week the government announced it wanted the UK to become the world leader in driverless technology, demonstrating this by showing off the LUTZ Pathfinder pod whizzing around Milton Keynes.

So, is this a steer in the right direction? As it starts to trial driverless cars around Britain this summer, the government is predicting that the industry is expected to be worth around £900bn by 2025 from the £19m of funding invested. Of course, this will be great for the economy if the forecast is correct, but will it really kick off?

Research by Virgin last year revealed that nearly half of the UK public is uncomfortable with the presence of driverless cars on the roads, with a quarter of those surveyed saying they wouldn’t get inside such a car. However, just a fraction below that feel that it will be a great addition to our roads.

The two-seater, electric-powered vehicle, packed with 19 sensors, cameras and radars, is bound to cause some controversy, with some saying it will cut down road accidents. But what if it doesn’t? David Williams, head of underwriting at insurance firm Axa, said: “Currently whoever is driving the car, or cars, are responsible for the accident, but going forward what’s it going to be?”

When there are two different types of driverless cars that will be launched, it’s hard to say who will be responsible.

The scheme is opening up access to cars for everyone, since ‘fully automated’ cars will require no involvement from drivers and will be capable of communicating with other vehicles, traffic lights and road signs. However, ‘highly automated’ cars will require drivers who hold licences to take control of the wheel if there are any issues.

Although the cars could eventually save motorists six working weeks a year in driving time, improve safety, reduce congestion and cut emissions, it’s still clear there are issues that need to be solved before they take over our roads, such as the risk of being hacked.

As with all new technology, there are concerns that the cars will be vulnerable to hackers due to the ‘high level of computer technology on board’. However, to resolve this, the government will ask all manufacturers to ensure all vehicles have ‘fail safe’ systems in case they are hacked.

There may be a lot of negative opinions towards the new cars, but there’s no doubt that it will help towards the busy schedules of Britain’s citizens, enabling motorists to answer emails, read a book or even give you some time in your day to have a nap on your way home from work. And as exciting as it all sounds, I’m not sure I will be getting in a driverless car anytime soon.