Driverless cars 'have hidden benefits'

Driverless cars 'have hidden benefits'

Academics believe driverless cars could help improve poor public transport links in rural areas of Wales.

The vehicles are soon set to be trialled on roads in the UK, and engineers at Glyndwr University believe they should be tested in Wales because they are well suited to its steep, narrow and slow roads.

It is hoped driverless cars could be used as taxis in the Welsh countryside, easily transporting residents from A to B.

Barry Johnston, lecturer in low carbon at the university, says driverless cars have real potential to deliver a sustainable rural economy for Wales.

He claims public transport links are becoming increasingly infrequent as a growing number of young people leave their homes in the countryside and head to the big cities to find work.

He thinks autonomous vehicles are the answer.

Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and the London borough of Greenwich have been chosen as the areas for three separate trials. One will take place in Bristol, one in Greenwich and one split between Coventry and Milton Keynes.

The Government has committed £19 million to the trials, putting the UK at the forefront of automated vehicle technology. Each of them will last between 18 and 36 months, testing different aspects of self-driving technology.

While all of them will take place away from public roads, the aim is to make automated vehicles on Britain's roads a reality.

The team at Glyndwr University believe Wales should play a part in the trials. It has submitted its views to the Welsh government's draft transport plan and is now awaiting a response to the proposals.

But Mr Johnston accepts that the dream of driverless cars serving as taxis in rural areas of Wales is a long way off.

He admits it will take five to 10 years before anything like this becomes a reality in the UK .

Other ideas put forward by the university to improve transport in Wales include introducing a one-ticket system for bus, rail and other public transport, electrifying the coastal rail line to Holyhead and cutting the journey time from north to south Wales.

Copyright Press Association 2015