Jaguar Land Rover has quietly started testing driverless cars on British roads that are simultaneously being used by the general public, in a clear indication that Britain’s largest vehicle manufacturer is determined to play a leading role in the race to develop autonomous vehicles.
Coventry-based JLR has been putting its autonomous vehicles through their paces on the streets of its home town for several weeks now.
This is the first time a UK-based manufacturer has unleashed its own test vehicles on the public roads. Driverless cars have previously been confined to closed roads and tracks or only used on open roads for short demonstration periods.
Ralf Speth, chief executive of JLR, said: “We stand on the brink of a mobility revolution. The impact of the changes we are about to embrace will be huge across all sectors of the UK economy.”
As part of the UK Autodrive consortium, JLR cars are driving a challenging half-mile route on Coventry’s roads in a “mixed use” area. Although a safety driver is on board to take over in an emergency, the cars rely on their own sensors to react to traffic, pedestrians and signals, with the driver not touching the controls in a “hands-off, feet-off” scenario.
With the worldwide value of autonomous systems estimated to be worth £900bn by 2025, investing in driverless technology could deliver a massive boost to the UK economy. A study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders calculated that 320,000 British jobs could be created by 2030 if the UK establishes itself as a leader in the field. Arguably Britain already has something of a headstart over many nations in autonomous vehicles because the UK never ratified the Vienna Convention – the international legislation that requires that “every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle”. The UK therefore does not have to substantially rewrite traffic law in order to test self-driving vehicles on public roads.