Driverless cars could improve rural transport links

Driverless cars could be used to help improve public transport links to inaccessible rural areas, according to research.

Engineers at Glyndwr University in Wales said that autonomous vehicles should be trialled in the country because they believe they’re well suited to its steep, narrow and slow roads.

According to the academics, they could be used as taxis in rural areas around the country, which could significantly improve the quality of life for residents in the remotest parts of the UK.

Could significantly improve lives in remote areas

Barry Johnston, a lecturer at the Wrexham-based university, said that new driverless car technology has “real potential to deliver a sustainable rural economy for Wales”.

He said: “There is a decline in rural populations as more and more young people head into the city to find work and the offset of this has been that public transport links have become even more infrequent – and non-existent in some areas.

“I think we’re looking at five to ten years before something like this could become a reality and it would of course need the consent of people living in rural areas, with all of their concerns addressed.”

Currently, driverless cars are undergoing testing in four areas around the country, with trials for the autonomous vehicles taking place in Bristol, Greenwich, Coventry and Milton Keynes.

Back in February, the first driverless prototype vehicle was revealed, the two-seater Lutz Pathfinder which is due to start roaming the streets of Milton Keynes later in the year.

Kitted out with a funky union flag finish, the Lutz can carry two people and can run for approximately eight hours with a 40-mile range. Designed for urban areas, it has a top speed of 15mph.

It uses a total of 22 sensors around its body, including panoramic cameras, laser imaging and radar technology to build up a virtual picture of the world around it, allowing it to navigate the streets.

No licence required to use a driverless car

Fully electric, and featuring processing units with the power of two high-end computers, each pod can communicate with others and can be hailed by pedestrians using a smartphone app.

It was also revealed that driverless cars won’t require a driving licence to operate, meaning that it’s hoped they can be used to transport vulnerable road users like the elderly or even schoolchildren.

Do you think that a driverless car would improve lives, or are they just a danger to other road users? Why not let us know your thoughts by joining the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages!