Nissan driverless car travels 230 miles from Milton Keynes in 'huge step' for autonomous vehicles

It marks the longest journey undertaken by a driverless car on a public road in the UK or Europe, the project leaders say

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 4:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 4:44 pm

Ministers hailed a "huge step forward" for self-driving cars after an autonomous vehicle successfully made a 230 mile journey from Milton Keynes to Sunderland, it has been reported in inews.

Although there have been a handful of road tests of self-driving vehicles before, this is by far the longest journey undertaken by one on a public road in the UK or Europe, the project leaders say.

It's also the first such test to be revealed to the public, demonstrating just how far autonomous vehicles have progressed in the last few years - although it is still likely to be some time before these technologies become implemented into new cars and made available to the public, experts say.

The route of the longest journey taken by an autonomous vehicle in the UK (Nissan)

The journey was made in an electric Nissan Leaf, with a passenger behind the steering wheel in the front and another at hand in the back in case the vehicle ran into any difficulties.

The route included roads with no or minimal markings, junctions, roundabouts and motorways, using advanced positioning technology helped by GPS, radar and light detection and ranging equipment, allowing vehicles to navigate roads and obstacles.

Another driver-controlled vehicle travelled behind the car to monitor the situation.

The test was part of a £13.5million project known as HumanDrive led by Nissan and backed by the government, Hitachi, and Highways England, the road operator.

The vehicle on its journey (Nissan)

"This is a huge step forward towards the roll-out of driverless cars on UK streets. Safely completing the longest autonomous journey in Britain is an incredible achievement," said business minister Nadhim Zahawi.

In the longer term, the roll-out of autonomous vehicles could revolutionise transport.

The benefits of autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce the stress and energy spent on driving as well as making it possible for people who cannot drive - such as children, the elderly or people with some disabilities - to take journeys on their own, experts say.

But the advancement of self-driving cars around the world has been hampered by safety concerns and problems regarding insurance liability.