How did we ensure public safety?
All of the vehicles used in the UK Autodrive programme were rigorously tested before being introduced onto public roads and footpaths. Robust safety cases were developed and refined as integral parts of the programme. In addition, a trained operator was at the wheel of all the road-based M1 cars for the duration of the autonomous vehicle trials – ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary. Trained operators were also inside the pavement-based pods, ready to take control if required.
Will self-driving vehicles ever be 100% safe?
It is difficult to imagine a mass transportation system that can ever be 100% safe. Even with the superfast reactions of a computer, fully automated vehicles will still be constrained by the laws of physics when it comes to factors such as stopping distance. Nevertheless, automated vehicles should be capable of achieving much higher safety levels than conventional cars, due to their much faster reaction times and by removing the human errors that currently play a part in the vast majority of road traffic accidents.
What about people hacking into the control systems?
Safe and reliable control systems are essential to the success of self-driving vehicles and any automated system will need to be designed to minimise the risk of unlawful access to essential controls. Within UK Autodrive, cyber-security is a significant part of both vehicle and infrastructure systems development. In common with many other modern systems, autonomous car security systems will need to evolve to deal with newly identified threats.
How will the footpath-based pods deal with blind pedestrians and wheelchair users?
The pods being trialled in Milton Keynes will use their sensors to move out of the way of pedestrians or come to a gentle stop if their way is blocked. The pods have also been designed to emit a humming noise to alert pedestrians that they are coming.