The Milton Keynes Council envisions self-driving vehicles easing traffic congestion and eliminating parking spaces
In October, the largest self-driving car project backed by the British government wrapped up three years worth of testing aimed at getting autonomous vehicles onto roads by 2021. Many of the autonomous car and pod tests took place in Milton Keynes, a town built for cars that represents one of the fastest-growing city or town economies in the United Kingdom.
Originally founded as a new “model town” in 1967, Milton Keynes is a city in all but name after having grown to 280,000 people in 50 years. But the same economic success means that Milton Keynes—built in a grid layout and suburban style—faces a number of growing pains that it’s looking to ease with the help of autonomous vehicle technology. The recent UK Autodrive tests were designed to test the capabilities of both self-driving cars and smaller autonomous pod vehicles made by Coventry, UK-based Aurrigo, a division of RDM Group, with an eye toward easing traffic congestion and possibly even eliminating the need for cars in the city center.
“We recognize the technology is in its infancy,” says Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation for the Milton Keynes Council in the UK. “It’s not fully capable in terms of mimicking what humans could do in driving cars, but it’s very close.”
In the next few decades, the growing town will likely need to accommodate double or triple the amount of cars on its roads today—something that can’t realistically be met by simply “building loads of car parks,” Matthews says. The community’s changing demographics and growing elderly population could also benefit from self-driving vehicles to provide mobility to people who cannot or do not want to drive. So the Milton Keynes Council worked with technologists to develop a set of use cases tailored to the community’s problems that could be demonstrated within a three-year program.
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