Driverless vehicle trials could be a step towards ending road deaths, says charity

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

Brake, the road safety charity, has hailed today’s launch (11 February) of three driverless vehicle trials as an exciting step towards a safer, more sustainable future for UK road travel, and a long-term goal of ending needless road deaths.

The trials are being launched in Greenwich – location of the GATEway trial – by transport minister Claire Perry and business secretary Vince Cable, alongside publication of a Department for Transport report setting out the pathway for the widespread introduction of the technology.

The trials, being led by three consortia and supported by government funding, are taking place in Greenwich, Bristol, and a combined project split between Milton Keynes and Coventry. They will last from 18 to 36 months, and will assess how driverless vehicles function in everyday life on public roads and their scope for making road travel safer and more sustainable. The trials will look at how the technology can be used to improve public and private transport in busy and complex road environments.

Predicted benefits of the technology include [1]:

  • cutting the 94% of road deaths and injuries that involve human error;
  • saving the six working weeks the average driver in England would otherwise spend driving;
  • providing better access to sustainable and low-cost transport for everyone, including the 14% of men, 31% of women and 46% of 17-30 year olds who don’t hold a full driving licence.

Brake’s deputy chief executive, Julie Townsend, will be serving on the advisory group for the Greenwich trial. This trial is known as the GATEway project and is led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake said: “We’re hugely excited to see these trials get underway and to be advising on the GATEway project in Greenwich, where road safety and sustainable travel are clearly at the forefront. We believe driverless technology could hold the key to ending the needless suffering caused every day by road deaths and serious injuries. We witness the aftermath of road casualties, and the terrible and lasting impact on families and communities, through our support services for crash victims. We know from research that the vast majority of these tragedies are caused by human error and risk-taking, so this technology could be a critical move towards stopping them. Driverless vehicles could transform the way we use roads, helping to ensure everyone can get around through safe, sustainable and affordable means, and making our communities more pleasant and sociable places.”

Notes to editors

Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] The pathway to driverless cars: summary report and action plan, Department of Transport, 2015