28/10/2013 10:45 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Driverless cars on UK pavements by 2015

£65m driverless car pod trial to start in Milton Keynes – hail a ride for £2 via smartphone app

Driverless car trial to start in Milton Keynes with pods similar to that used by Heathrow Business Parking (© REX)

Driverless cars are starting to look less and less like science fiction and much more like a realistic vision of our near future – and now the first UK trial of the technology is set to start in Milton Keynes in 2015.

But don’t go expecting a Ford Fiesta with a brain. Instead the Milton Keynes experiment will feature compact pods that you can hail via a smartphone app, zipping along pavements at up to 12mph.

The trial, which is expected to cost £65 million and last five years, will begin with special lanes between the Milton Keynes Central train station and the centre:mk shopping centre, stopping as needed at the offices in between.

However, it’s hoped that in time the lanes will be removed, and the little electric pods will negotiate pavements by themselves, equipped with sensors that will detect and avoid pedestrians and parked cars.

Is the end of driving yourself nigh – and will you miss it when it’s gone?

The trial will start in 2015, but the plan is that within two years residents and visitors will be able to hire a pod via a smartphone app – either by pre-booking or hailing on the spot – at an anticipated cost of £2 a trip.

The compact machines are likely to be similar to the Heathrow Terminal 5 business pods (pictured), with enough space on board for two people and luggage.

Why Milton Keynes? Quite simply because the town has nice wide pavements.

Government business secretary, Vince Cable:

"The number of cars in the world is expected to reach four billion by 2050, four times today’s number, so it is important that the UK is at the cutting edge of new technologies.

"Driverless cars have the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety."

Minister for higher education at the business department, David Willetts:

"In 25 years we will look back and be amazed at how much time we used to spend driving ourselves places. We will be hopping into a car that will drive us to the cinema where we will tell it ‘park yourself and come back and get me at 10.15pm’.

"One aim is to see if driverless cars are safer so we can cut road traffic accidents. They don’t get drunk or drive under the influence of drugs. They don’t get exhausted and fall asleep."

All true, of course. But they don’t sound all that much like fun, either…

So what do you think – is the end of driving yourself nigh? And will you miss driving yourself when it’s gone?

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