Driverless cities are getting closer

As part of my Graphic design communication course, we got to choose a completely separate topic that we would explore for a few weeks. I choose a topic called The Smart City where we explored the technology and innovations that help create modern day and future cities. This post was written specifically for this project.

Today as part of an Expanded Pracitce project we visited Digital Greenwhich, in London. They are the team responsible for using innovative tehnology to modernise the borough and create a test area for new technology that could one day enhance all of our lives. 

One of the key things which the team talked about was the GATEway project, a plan to to bring driverless vehicles into Greenwich. The autonomous vehicles are completely computer controlled and would shuttle passengers around different parts of the area. They have already been used at London's Heathrow Airport taking passengers from the business car park to the main terminal but on a sectioned off route. In Greenwich, the driverless vehicles will travel along a shared pedestrian and cycle lane meaning they are fully integrated into the area. 

 Left: Driverless vehicles which take passengers from car park to terminal at Heathrow Airport. Right: A driverless vehicle being tested in Greenwich.

Left: Driverless vehicles which take passengers from car park to terminal at Heathrow Airport. Right: A driverless vehicle being tested in Greenwich.

Autonomous vehicles have been in development for a long time now meaning they are no longer 'breaking news'. With large companies such as Alphabet (Google), Tesla, Uber and Apple working on driverless cars, they are definitely going to have a big impact on how we travel around our cities in the future. Tesla is already selling cars that are fully capable of driving themselves and are now being used more and more every day. Tesla has done a great job of making it's 'autopilot' feature friendly and easy to use which makes driving autonomously a pleasure.

 Tesla's Autopilot feature makes its cars fully autonomous.

Tesla's Autopilot feature makes its cars fully autonomous.

Driverless vehicles will definitely make travel easier, safer and more efficient in our busy cities as almost every road incident involves a human making a mistake at the wheel. When all of the vehicles on our roads are controlled by computers, they'll be able to talk to each other to reduce traffic, travel faster and eliminate crashes. Many Metro systems around the world are already fully autonomous including several of London's Tube lines, so when road vehicles can think for themselves too, the elimination of human error will make journeys faster and safer.

In the future many people won't need to own a car as shared driverless cars will be available upon their request to take them anywhere they need to go. We already have Uber where a car appears, take you to your destination and you don't have to worry about parking or navigation. The driverless future is starting to look like a city full of Uber cars, except without any drivers. You tell the car where you want to go, and it takes you there in an efficient, fast and safe way. Markings on roads and highways will be adapted and specifically painted to accommodate driverless cars, making it easier for them to navigate. Busses could soon be autonomous too as this technology is rolled out more and more in different ways. 

For now, these driverless cars in Greenwich are still being tested on a specific route, however it won't be long until they start to expand out further into our cities. The idea of driverless cars really excites me as it'll make transport easier and much more efficient for many people.

Adam Marsh