Driverless pods, the future?

1st February, 2016

Soon to be hitting the streets of Greenwich Peninsular in London is these autonomous pods. This July the vehicles similar to the pods used at Heathrow airport, which run on rails are currently in development so they will be road worthy for the testing near the O2 Arena. They will have the conventional four wheels and be tested for three months before being open to the general public.

Design & Testing

Developing the pods used at Heathrow is no easy task having to adapt from rail to road. The new pods will be designed to seat 6 passengers including a steward who is there to press the emergency stop button should any problems arise.

Numerous companies are pursuing the autonomous vehicle path as a global race seems to be developing. It’s not just car manufacturers either; there is Google and if rumours are true then Apple are trying their hand at it too.

Testing is due to be carried out in another three locations other than Greenwich in the UK. Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry are the other test sites with a budget expected to be around £8 million funded partially by Innovate UK . They are hoping that this openness to the public will help improve public opinion on the matter of giving over the responsibility to drive to the computers on board.

Who insures them; Owner or Manufacturer?

This is one of the biggest if not the biggest factor of the autonomous vehicle other than the initial safety of them. Who covers the cost when it goes wrong? The Association of British Insurers (ABI) have already assembled a group of which over eleven companies signed up to discuss the effects driverless cars will have on the insurance industry for both the insurers and their customers.

According to the ABI 94% of road accidents are caused by human error. This stat alone surely bodes well for the future of the autonomous car if it can be made and proven to be safe for the public. If it is the case and autonomous cars are introduced successfully and claims from accidents fall significantly then along with that so should car insurance premiums.

The main issue coming out of these talks with insurers and the ABI are that who takes responsibility for an accident when a fully autonomous car crashes, would it be the driver or the manufacturer? Some manufacturers like Google and Mercedes are so sure of the products they will make that they will accept full liability should it crash while in fully autonomous mode; however others are more wary of accepting liability and must take into account every input made by the driver.