The race to put driverless cars on public roads might not be as culturally pressing as the Space Race of the 1960s, but you’re more likely to notice its impact in your day-to-day life.
Last November, the US saw its first fully driverlessride-hailing service (without a safety driver) hit the road thanks to Waymo, while the UK aims to have driverless cars on our roads by 2021.
The first big step in achieving this comes in the form of the HumanDrive project: a 200-mile autonomous journey across the UK. The car will be prepared for this journey through a series of tests designed to emulate human drivers.
But will the UK have a harder time putting this plan into action? Unlike the US’ highways and easy-to-navigate straight roads, anyone who’s had to drive anywhere off the beaten path here in the south west will know that our road systems here in the UK are comparatively more complicated.
If you visit the HumanDrive website, you’ll see a gorgeous landscape shot; the rolling green hills ahead of a stunning sunset. Through the middle of the scene? A winding country road.
The website says that the lengthy journey the prototype is to take will consist of A-roads, motorways and, of course, country lanes, all under a variety of weather conditions. The aim here is to help develop a stronger, safer system. If the cars can tackle these roads, the project will be one step closer to achieving its goal: natural, human-like control.
The more we think about this exciting project, the more we think about how we currently commute. How safe are we when we drive?
A quick visit to the THINK! webpage on country road safety reveals some surprising facts. They state that 59% of all road fatalities occur on country roads. Reasons for this include the narrow width of the roads, in addition to sharp corners and plant life obscuring a driver’s view.
These roads also run through the homes of local wildlife, and encountering an unexpected hazard, such as an animal, is not as rare as you might think. Because Animal road deaths are so unfortunately common on UK roads, the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society (DLPS) began marking livestock with reflective paint in 2015.
So, how can we ensure we stay safe? THINK! offer some brilliant advice to all drivers planning to venture onto a country road.
They suggest that drivers should be able to anticipate potential hazards by paying attention to the road in front of them. This could mean being more considerate when sharing the road with other road users (like horse riders or cyclists), or exercising patience with slower vehicles. Hasty decisions in these moments could end up disastrously.
Perhaps the most important lesson is not to take the road for granted. Even if you know the road like the back of your hand, you may never know what’s around the corner on a country road. THINK! suggests you approach a country road with the conditions of the road at that moment in mind.
It might seem less nerve-wrecking to imagine a car tackling these roads, when accidents caused by human drivers are so common. We hope that as we find out more aware of the exciting HumanDrive project, we will all take a moment to consider our own road safety.
To find out more advice on country road safety, visit the THINK! website: http://think.direct.gov.uk/country-roads.html
For more information on HumanDrive, visit the website: https://www.humandrive.co.uk/