The first trial of a driverless car on public roads in the UK has been hailed as a success after taking place around Milton Keynes.
A team of developers from Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and Oxford University ran the vehicle in full autonomous mode around the town’s railway station and business district, which is the result of 18 months of development for the LUTZ Pathfinder project.
Programme director at the TSC Neil Fulton said: “This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts.”
He added the technology demonstrated by Oxford University is now set to go on to power autonomous vehicles around the world, while the LUTZ Pathfinder project will feed into a wider programme of trials throughout the UK.
The demonstration reflects the latest stage in the development of driverless car technology, which has made significant gains around the world in the last few years, with similar trials taking place as far apart as the US and Singapore.
As the technology is set to become mainstream in the coming years, road planners and legislators will have to face a new series of challenges when it comes to ensuring they are able to share the road space safely with regular traffic.
In the case of the LUTZ Pathfinder, the preparations for the public trial included virtual mapping of Milton Keynes, assessing public acceptance, conducting the necessary safety planning and working with the local authority to establish the regulatory environment.
Its success was also welcomed by business and energy secretary Greg Clark, who said it marks a groundbreaking moment for the technology, as well as emphasising that the UK is still at the forefront of transport innovation.
He added: “The global market for autonomous vehicles presents huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms. And the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.”