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Steps forward for self driving car projects

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Two of the UK’s major connected and autonomous vehicle projects have reached significant milestones this week. The GATEway project announced its next phase of driverless pod trials in London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich while UK Autodrive has published results of a nationwide survey on public attitudes to self driving vehicles.

Autonomous pods aimed at providing first and last mile transportation will soon appear around the Greenwich Peninsula in an open public trial of the technology, which is due to start in the autumn.

Software developer Fusion Procession will provide sensing and control equipment for these brand new pods – based on the original Heathrow Airport platform pod design – that are being built by Westfield Sportscars.

This latest trial is expected to involve hundreds of members of the public and comes after the GATEway project provided a select number of people with the opportunity to ride in its first prototype driverless pod back in April.

“This is a really exciting time for the project,” said TRL’s technical lead Simon Tong. “With Fusion, we look to build on all we have learned for our fleet of new driverless pods so that GATEway can conclude with a trial that will engage as many people as possible and hopefully amaze them at the same time.”

The need to further educate the public about self driving vehicles and their potential benefits is highlighted by the results of UK Autodrive’s latest survey which gathered the views of 2850 people.

The survey shows that a large majority of people are familiar with the concept of driverless cars and 35% said they would use a fully autonomous vehicle (without a driver or steering wheel) once they become available. Just 15% of respondents expressed strong opposition to the idea, the survey conducted by researchers at Cambridge University’s engineering and psychology departments revealed.

However some reticence was expressed when it came to the ability of new technology to replace human involvement completely, with 74% wanting to retain the option to drive manually. And, while 80% of respondents felt that self driving vehicles would assist those with impairments of disabilities, just 19% said they would send their children to school in one.

“There is obviously still plenty to be done in terms of educating the public – particularly when it comes to the potential benefits this technology could bring – but there is already lots of positivity in these initial findings,” commented principal research associate at the University of Cambridge Engineering Design Centre Pat Langdon.

UK Autodrive will now stage a series of workshops to further explore the reasons behind some of the responses and investigate ways in which attitudes towards self driving vehicles might be further improved.