Saturday, 2 August 2014

'Driverless' buses and 10mph zone on Oxford St could be the future for central London . . .


'Driverless' buses and 10mph zone on Oxford St could be the future for central London

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Automated vehicles could cut the number of deaths and injuries on London’s roads by 90 per cent, a major study on the future of transport in the capital claimed today.

The report by renowned transport expert Professor David Begg said pedestrian and cyclist lives could be saved by establishing zones for automated vehicles - or AVs - where speeds could be restricted by remote control to walking pace.

Roads outside schools could become 10mph zones and the extremely low speed limit could also apply to Oxford Street allowing pedestrians and cyclists to mingle with buses.

The orbital road tunnel proposed by mayor Boris Johnson could be an AV-only zone which would make it safer but also boost capacity fourfold with remotely-controlled cars driving bumper-to-bumper.

In the first major leap for “driverless” technology in the capital, all 8,500 London buses would be fitted with sensors that trigger the breaks if a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist gets dangerously close.

The report, “A 2050 Vision for London” was commissioned by Clear Channel with a foreword by Transport for London chief Sir Peter Hendy.

Prof Begg, a former Government transport advisor, said: “Automation will be driven by safety. The big prize with automated cars, buses and taxis are the safety benefits. If everyone were to travel at the speed limit, which could be controlled, you could reduce the number of fatalities by 90 per cent by eliminating human error. The first step is sensors on buses, which are being trialled in the city, to engage the breaks automatically if its in close proximity to a pedestrian or cyclist. I expect it to become compulsory for lorries and buses and taxis to be fitted with these sensors.”

“In 20 years most vehicles will be equipped with automated technology so you could see the orbital tunnel being AV only which would be safer and increase capacity by as much as four times because you are running bumper to bumper. It would change the economics of these tunnels.”

In 2012, there were 134 deaths on London’s roads with 69 pedestrian and 14 cyclist fatalities. 

Prof Begg recommended TfL take control of the speeds. He said: “The driver presses a button to go from A to B. It’s going to be like power steering in cars, it will be standard within 10 years on new cars. I can see the benefits for Oxford Street where you want to change the balance of the street where the speed limit isn’t any quicker than someone walking or cycling. It allows us to turn streets into more living space.”

But he warned: “There’s quite a way to go until you have full automation. The Department for Transport will have to regulate here. The issue is on what conditions will you be allowed to be in a vehicle and not be alert and attentive.

"Even though Google have been millions of miles in the United States (in driverless cars) we are a long way off being satisfied this type of technology can be used without being a threat to anyone.

"If all vehicles are automated it’s easier because they speak to each other. The difficulty is what you do in the interim when only a percentage are automated and the rest are conventional.”

He said the biggest potential gain on the automation of the public transport is on the railways. “The high levels of frequency we’ve become used to on the Underground with up to 35 trains an hour we need to try to emulate on the heavy rail network. There needs to be more people travelling into the city by rail and the best way to achieve that is by increased frequency.”

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