A fleet of driverless cars will be tested on UK roads and motorways in 2019. 

The DRIVEN group – a consortium of British companies – has unveiled the plans, which will aim to operate autonomous vehicles on the UK’s roads over a two and a half year period. The trial will culminate with vehicles travelling from London to Oxford with complete autonomy. 

The autonomous vehicles will share hazard warnings, but they will all have a person on board in case of emergency. 

DRIVEN is led by driverless car developers Oxbotica and has received funding of more than £8 million from the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. It will be the first large-scale project to take place at high speeds and on public roads. 

Previous research into autonomous vehicles has found they could significantly reduce journey times, but certain groups are concerned that they could lead to complacency and slower driver reactions. Charities such as Cycling UK have also warned that cyclists and pedestrians may act more erratically around driverless vehicles, as they may assume the vehicles will always stop.  

“We welcome progress, and are glad to see plans are being made to bring advancements to road use, but it’s vitally important the government isn’t in a Brexit inspired headlong rush, resulting in gaps in safety, infrastructure or driver and other road user education.”

David Robinson, a senior serious injury solicitor

David Robinson, a senior serious injury solicitor at Thompsons, said: “These trials are the logical next step if autonomous vehicles are to become a viable alternative to regular driving. This will be the first time they have been used extensively on public roads in the UK and it should provide insight into how much more development is needed. 

“Our concern is that education about these new vehicles won’t keep pace with the speed of their development. Fears have already arisen about complacency both from drivers and other road users, and there is an assumption that the technology will always work, which may not always be the case. Either prospect could cause serious injuries. 

 

“We welcome progress, and are glad to see plans are being made to bring advancements to road use, but it’s vitally important the government isn’t in a Brexit inspired headlong rush, resulting in gaps in safety, infrastructure or driver and other road user education.”