Until now, all driverless vehicle testing has either taken place on private roads, or with a human driver behind the wheel, just in case. But a new trial of driverless lorries in Sweden has taken to the public roads without any immediate human intervention – because there’s nowhere for the driver to sit.
If you’re regular visitor to these pages you’ll know we regularly feature the latest advances in motoring tech, and with every month it seems we’re getting closer to the day when you’ll be able to hire a van or car from our depots at any age and without a licence, because you won’t need to be able to drive.
Last week, we took another step towards that day, as a Swedish company launched the T-Pod, a semi-autonomous lorry that’s currently covering an admittedly short route between one part of a Swedish industrial estate and, er, another part of the same estate.
It is, however, public road, which is why the truck is limited to just 3mph during its test phases, because it’s mixing with other road users.
Future of van and car hire?
The T-Pod’s creators hope that this will be the future of freight. The road has been augmented with advanced communications so the controller – who sits in a room remotely – never loses contact or control of the vehicle.
There is clearly more to do. 3mph won’t get anyone very far, very fast. And there’ll need to be a point where automated vehicles need to be released onto public roads free from test conditions. Once the technology has been mastered for freight, then we may well start seeing the same tech employed in hire cars and vans (what a great way to lower driver insurance premiums) and then regular vehicles. We’re not there yet, but as creator Robert Falcke reminded the BBC, the Wright brothers’ first flight managed less than 900ft – and it didn’t take long for that technology to improve.