It’s a technology that many thought confined to the world of science fiction, 80s TV programmes and Minority Report car chases -but a new trial will see residents of Milton Keynes test-driving driverless cars in specially-designated lanes by 2015.
A hundred driverless cars are set to join pedestrians on the pavements of the Buckinghamshire town within two years as part of an experiment by a joint industry and government panel seeking to explore the future of UK transport.
The self-driving pods will traverse a specially-built lane on pavements at speeds of up to 12mph as part of the Automotive Council UK’s five-year project, which will cost £65m.
The vehicles will be imbued with sensors and GPS technology that should (in theory) enable the battery-powered pods to ferry two people safely through busy towns, avoiding people, objects and other self-controlled machines along the way.
Those wishing to hail a pod will be able to do so through a mobile-phone app, which will also be the conduit for payment.
The trial will last until 2017, with the hopes of a successful future roll-out to other towns and cities across Britain afterwards. In the meantime, Milton Keynes residents can expect to be charged around £2 a trip to travel between the railway station, shopping centre and town offices; the new transport system is expected to raise around £1 million a year.
Across the pond, Google introduced driverless cars in California last year and they have now stacked up nearly 400,000 miles of travel without a single accident. The hopes are is that their British counterparts will follow suit, providing an alternative mode of transport in increasingly congested towns.
How the residents of Milton Keynes will resist humming the Knight Rider theme-tune as they drive is another story.