The Times have reported that autonomous taxis have driven on London’s roads for the first time.
The roll out of autonomous taxis in the capital is part of a Transport for London sponsored project.
Oxbotica, an Oxford-based autonomous vehicle company has been working with TfL and Addison Lee on the project. Oxbotica held a demonstration with real passengers. It has been reported that TfL is looking to license produce the country’s first driverless taxis by June 2020.
The Times reported that Paul Newman, founder of Oxbotica and professor of engineering at Oxford, admitted that unsupervised cars were years away but said having autonomous cars in London was a significant step. “We had trialled in Oxford, but . . . being able to show these cars working in a mega-city is about confirming that they can operate smoothly, safely and legally in complex real-life situations.
“In a major city there are all sorts of unexpected things that can happen, so at the moment we still need a human to take over in those scenarios.”
The £13.6 million project was funded partly by the government and the Department for Transport has said that autonomous cars will be able to run on the roads by the end of 2021.
Transport for London published guidelines this year on trials of self-driving cars, signalling its wish to promote them. Michael Hurwitz, director of innovation at TfL, said: “Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to significantly change travel and that’s why the mayor’s transport strategy commits us to engaging with innovative companies, both now and in the future, at the earliest available opportunity.”
George Freeman, the transport minister, said: “Self-driving technology has the scope to revolutionise the way people travel with potentially profound benefits for road safety, accessibility and convenience. We want to drive the roll-out of self-driving vehicles and continue to support innovators.”