Driverless cars are set to carry human passengers for the first time on UK streets as a government-backed consortium launches trials in London.
British start-up FiveAI is leading the project by supplying the software that controls the vehicles, which has been ‘developed and trained’ on complex UK roads including London.
Although the trial is not open to the general public, volunteers have been invited to ride as passengers in the vehicles, which are currently operating on two routes in Croydon and Bromley.
At its current stage of development and testing, a human driver is in place to take over if required, though the emphasis is on allowing the vehicle to drive itself and finding out how the passengers respond to commuting in a driverless car.
FiveAI says it believes “self-driving services could offer citizens a safer, greener, more convenient and increasingly affordable alternative to the urban commuter car”.
The trial is running through a consortium called StreetWise, which includes Direct Line Group, one of the UK’s largest car insurance providers, and TRL, an independent organisation focused on transport innovation.
Stan Boland, FiveAI co-founder and chief executive, said: “Shared, self-driving vehicle services promise a better way for people to get around. We’ll be working with forward-thinking partners to make these services a reality in European urban environments. The lessons learned through StreetWise provide an important step towards that goal.”
Grant Shapps, UK secretary of state for Transport, said: “The untapped potential of self-driving vehicle technology is huge — it could enhance road safety, tackle isolation, and create economic opportunities. The Government’s Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy sets out how it is planning for the introduction of self-driving vehicles, and StreetWise’s successful trial will be a major step to rolling out the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution.”