With news breaking this week that Petrol and Diesel New Car sales are due to be phased out by 2035, it seems the future really is electric, but could it also be autonomous?
It has been announced this week that a modified Nissan Leaf drove itself a whopping 230 miles from Bedfordshire to Sunderland, self-driving (and all-electric) cars could be much closer than anyone ever anticipated.
Reports from Nissan say that the only times a human driver took over was when the car needed to divert to a service station in order to recharge, it was able to handle country lanes with minimal road markings, as well as motorways, roundabouts and junctions – with other road users seemingly unaware that the car was driving itself.
The company working on this project, HumanDrive has reportedly received up to £13.5m in funding, from both the British Government and an industry consortium of nine partners, including Nissan and Hitachi. What is truly amazing is that whilst two engineers remained in the car throughout the journey (inevitably to take control if need be) the car achieved 99% self-navigation with the only human intervention needed, as mentioned above, was when the car pulled into service stations for checks and charging.
The Nissan Leaf’s official mileage on a standard battery is 130 miles on a full charge, so it would be interesting to know how much of the battery charge was used by the autonomous computer system.
This isn’t the only autonomous vehicle being tested on the streets of Britain. In October 2019 Ford Mondeos with autonomous technology were trialled in a separate government funded project in a urban environment. Another company Oxbotica hopes to begin passenger trials of an autonomous ride-sharing service in partnership with Addison Lee in London as soon as June.
The UK has been earmarked as a successful market place for autonomous vehicles – with the SMMT reporting that the Autonomous Vehicle alone could produce a £62bn economic boost by 2030, Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT is quoted as saying “The opportunities are dramatic – new jobs, economic growth and improvements across society. The UK’s potential is clear. We are ahead of many rival nations but to realise these benefits we must move fast.”
With over £500m already invested in research and development, alongside another £740m in communications infrastructure, it is clear that these vehicles will be on the road sooner than we think.