Seminar on self driving vehicles

The Royal Institute of Navigation and the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network of the UK Technology Strategy Board held a seminar on this subject at the University of Nottingham in March. There is a detailed write-up of the discussions and presentations here. Lots of interesting stuff, including contacts, descriptions of research and testing, and so on. Personally I don’t see much here that addresses the chair’s opening remark that “Vehicle automation may have a role to play in addressing major road transport challenges of safety, pollution, and congestion.” Some of what is being reported here may eventually translate into products and services, or technologies, that impact on the sustainability of transport, but it is not immediately obvious hor – at least not to me.The military applications seem a lot nearer.

A big crop of autonomous (driverless) car stuff

This concept car, which is a design student’s final project, but gets reported in the press as if it is going to solve the problems of transport and sustainability. (You can tell it’s a car, because it is displayed alongside some implausible shrink-wrapped ‘women’).

And some military unmanned vehicles, trialled in some war game exercise.

 And a driver-less electric van, going from Serbia to China and negotiating real traffic on the way.

Google driverless car project

Does the fact that the big G is investing in this (as described in the New York Times, here) mean that this is really about to get serious? Not necessarily, since Google fools around with a lot of stuff that it just thinks is cool or interesting. Still, if it does, then this will have been a milestone – we just can’t tell at the moment.

And no, the bloke in the car isn’t a driver. He’s not even sitting in the driver seat. He’s just a very brave robotics engineer.