Self-driving cars could make us do without traffic lights

An engineer backing a pilot in self-driving cars says traffic lights could be outdated within 20 years.

"A seismic shift in the way we plan our routes is possible," Thomas Tompkin of the Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL) told PA news agency.

Two self-driving electric cars made by Japanese manufacturer Nissan have completed hundreds of laps around a 2.7-mile route of busy roads in Woolwich, south-east London, over the past two years.

Self-driving cars could make

  • This is part of ServCity's project to identify and overcome barriers to deploying self-driving vehicles in cities, which ends next month.

  • It is believed to be the UK's first trial of driverless technology that involves the use of roadside infrastructure as well as private vehicle systems.

  • About 270 road cameras have been installed by SMLL to transmit information to Nissan Leaf cars about potential problems in the future.

  • This allows cars to change lanes well before encountering obstacles, resulting in a smoother flow of traffic.

  • Tompkin, SMLL's Head of Network, Infrastructure, and Operations, estimated that high-spec road systems cost "around a million pounds per kilometer", but claimed a broader rollout incorporating more core technology could be put into effect for a much lower cost.

  • In comparison to a feasibility study, he remarked, "it starts to appear a little more convincing.

  • He continued, "If we look out 20 or 30 years, can you start taking down parts of the infrastructure, like traffic lights? Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done before that occurs."

  • Tompkin said he hoped the UK had "moved a lot" towards "fully self-driving cars" in general use by the end of the decade.

  • The government has earlier expressed its commitment to introducing legislation that would enable the use of self-driving vehicles.


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