Questions remain over autonomous timelines

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the future uses of connected and autonomous vehicles has heard that timeframes for widespread adoption of the technology are ‘very hard to predict’.

Tuesday’s evidence session saw representatives of the major connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) trials currently underway in the UK – Autodrive, GATEway and Venturer – provide an update to the committee as well as answer questions on the likely shape of future trials.

Much of the session focused on public attitudes towards autonomous vehicles, with Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation at Milton Keynes Council, home to the Autodrive trials, explaining that the project was set to examine public attitudes and acceptance of CAV technology as much as develop the technology itself.

Dr John McCarthy of the Venturer project suggested its initial investigations into these behavioural aspects had revealed ‘a bit of fear, a bit of a sense of novelty and a bit of [people asking] ‘what can I get out of this?’’

When pressed by the committee about the likely timeframe for the widespread adoption of fully autonomous vehicles, the three project representatives agreed that such predictions were very hard to make – with Professor Nick Reed of GATEway light heartedly suggesting that there were a dozen partners in his project, ‘and every one of them has a different answer to that question.’ All agreed however that level four automation could be widespread within five to 10 years.

The oral evidence session was the second in a series of weekly hearings being held by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and follows on from the inquiry’s call for written evidence earlier this year. The committee is due to publish its findings and recommendations by February of next year.