The roads around Milton Keynes will see cars operating without a driver at the wheel from later this month. A start-up, backed by the Government and local council, will launch a major trial of the vehicles, which allow the public to order a car to pick them up through an app.
The ‘Fetch’ car system will initially be conducted with a safety driver in place in each vehicle while being monitored remotely.
Koosha Kaveh, CEO of Imperium Drive, the company behind the project said: “It’s driverless but not autonomous.
“There’s still a human involved, but they’ll be sitting in a control centre controlling the vehicle in the same way you would control a drone.
“Our goal is to make remote driving safer than actual driving.”
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Mr Kaveh said that the company’s computer image algorithms are able to anticipate obstacles the human brain could not.
He explained: “In normal driving you still have blind spots around you that cause accidents. You also can’t anticipate what’s coming in terms of traffic, pedestrians, (and) cyclists.”
Although the trial will see driverless cars on the roads of the town for the first time, initial testing has been going on for some time on private land and car parks around MK Dons stadium.
And the local football club has been lending a hand.
The performance director for MK Dons, Simon Crampton, said driverless vehicles will be of great help to the club’s players during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The biggest thing at the moment is Covid, because we can’t start putting players together in cars, particularly with the omicron variant being very contagious.
“Our players and staff can now order a vehicle through the app that will arrive at the front of the stadium to take them to training.”
If the trials go well, plans are in place to roll out the service to commuters arriving at Milton Keynes train station.
Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation at Milton Keynes council expects driverless cars to become a common feature of the town within two years.
He said: “We’ve been working at this for a number of years. We want people to move away from single occupancy cars.
“We’re looking a range of solutions not just these driverless cars, but also larger shuttles using similar technology and four-seater pods that are completely autonomous.”
Imperium Drive says that the technology also has environmental benefits due to the eventual reduction of the number of cars on the road.
In late 2020, Oxford was the first city to hold driverless car trials when it hosted ‘Project Endeavour’ a Government-backed scheme to test ‘level four’ vehicle autonomy.
Level four is the ability of a vehicle to operate without a driver at the wheel.
The trials saw semi-autonomous cars take on nine-mile journeys between the city’s two railway stations.
Meanwhile, German car giant VW is testing an electric, driverless van named the ‘ID Buzz’ on the streets of Munich.