What if…a car requires no driver?
While Google’s self-driving car has been making waves as the future of transport, Milton Keynes, a small southeastern town in England with around 200,000 residents is expected to see driverless two-seater “pods” on its roads at the speed of 19 kilometers per hour by 2015.
The pods are driven with electric power and run in pre-programmed routes: railway station, offices, and shopping malls. Passengers may use smart phone applications to reserve and control the vehicle. The fee per ride is about 2 pounds (110 baht approximately). Should the experiment work, the government would apply to other towns in England, transforming large cities and industrial areas into something like pavements rather than congested roads.
Pods, Google Car, and other prototype driverless cars are being developed by many renowned auto manufacturers from Europe and Japan. They are a new alternative for an efficient consumption of resources and reduction of costs; controlling the number of vehicles on the road instead of only focusing on energy-saving features of the vehicle. Professor Kent Larson, director of the MIT Media Lab's Changing Places group, said most of the cars running in the city are not used at their optimal capacity. They are usually parked, thus wasting a lot of space. If cars can be shared, their number can be reduced by 5 times. Traffic can also be reduced by controlling the number of cars to match passenger demand. More importantly, the use of sensor, GPS, laser scanner, and high definition camera to locate the position of the car and communicate with other devices will help reduce road accident risk. Throughout the 482,803 kilometers self-driving Google car test drive, no accident occurred.
However, the development of self-driving cars not only requires advance technology, but also support from national policy in terms of regulations and protection from cyber criminals who could hack into the car controlling system. Substantial investment on infrastructure is needed as well; the British government spent about 1.5 million pounds to test run pods in town. Meet the visionaries who are inspired by the challenges in the world today and trying to figure out the way to better living tomorrow at CU 2014 (Creativities Unfold, Bangkok) in August at TCDC.
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