Opinion Former Article

Lords begin driverless car inquiry

Developers of autonomous vehicles must ensure they consult fully with members of the public to ensure their needs are properly met, a House of Lords committee heard yesterday.

The Science and Technology Committee – chaired by Lord Selborne – began taking evidence for its inquiry into driverless vehicles and their future on UK roads this week.

The country has made a great start when it comes to testing and demonstrating self driving vehicles, head of the Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Iain Forbes told the committee.

But he said: “Discussing with the public how this is going to be taken forward will be key to success. People need to be able to see the benefit of the technology for themselves.”

He explained that trials in real world environments are therefore crucial to allow people to experience autonomous vehicles and think about how they might integrate into the rest of their lives.

He added that surveys showing public appetite for autonomous vehicles must be taken with ‘a pinch of salt’. “I read a new survey every week about what people think of driverless cars and it is a different answer every time.

“People haven’t properly interacted with this technology yet – that is why public demonstrations are so crucial.”

Department for Transport’s head of international vehicle standards Ian Yarnold was also quizzed by the panel.

He said: “We need to understand how people engage with driverless cars when they are being used in their town or city to help us make the right choices going forward and maximise the benefits.”

He added that the transition period where a mixture of autonomous and traditional cars are likely to be on the roads will present a short term challenge.

• Maintenance of road markings is currently insufficient to support the deployment of autonomous vehicles, a written response to the House of Lords inquiry from the Road Safety Markings Association has warned.

“By 2025 at least half the travel on Europe’s roads will be in vehicles that to some extent can read the road ahead including markings and signs. Vehicles, like drivers, cannot function if basic road markings and signs are non-existent, non-compliant, worn out, obscured, inconsistent or confusing,” the submission said.

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