back to article Londoners will be trialling driverless cars in pedestrianised area

Around a hundred Londoners will travel in Blighty’s first public driverless cars over the next few weeks, it was announced this morning. The trials, which will take place over a largely pedestrianised area around London’s O2 Arena in Greenwich, are being run by the UK’s privatised Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and …

  1. getHandle

    You were geographically challenged if you were near the T&L refinery

    It's on the other bank! Perhaps you went through the Blackwall tunnel?

    1. 's water music

      Re: You were geographically challenged if you were near the T&L refinery

      It's on the other bank! Perhaps you went through the Blackwall tunnel?

      Nonetheless it is a very visible landmark such as might be used as a locating reference by a non-native although an inadvertent pedestrian traverse of the Blackwall tunnel might explain the authors traumatic memories. Personally I have lots of happy childhood memories of that waterfront at a time when there were still many decaying industrial sites that were accessible to a young explorer

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    According to the Beeb the passengers volunteered for the ride. It says nothing about those who will encounter the vehicle from the outside.

    1. Chemical Bob
      Devil

      Those would be the targets.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        That's too harsh. They're merely laboratory rats.

        1. Chemical Bob

          "That's too harsh. "

          I never said I was nice.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      I'm wondering if it'll end up going slow enough for a dog to widdle on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm wondering if it'll end up going slow enough for a dog to widdle on it.

        For that to happen you will either need a dog that can limp very fast with one leg up, or one with remarkably good aim and timing, but at 10mph it will at least deliver on the consideration of "not being a white knuckle ride". That's still faster than you can walk (unless you're a fairly athletic jogger), but I hope they will ramp up to speeds that will actually impress.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    What could possibly etc...

    Yep, a silent electric vehicle sneaking up behind a poor pedestrian who really isn't expecting any motorised transport in the vicinity. In theory it will stop, in theory...

    But I'd like to watch as the car decides it needs to take evasive action and steers off the path, straight into the Thames. Hope the test pilots can breathe underwater.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: What could possibly etc...

      Well as it will be in a designated pedestrian area, I hope that people (particularly those with zimmer frames or young children) take great delight in the playing in front of it...

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

        Re: What could possibly etc...

        Just my observation on these 'silent' electric vehicles. A local power company runs a demonstrator electric Citroen Berlingo, which passes occasionally on my walk to work. It struck me that I wouldn't​ have known it was an electric vehicle, if it wasn't written in large letters down the side of it. The tyre road noise is identical to that of a regular vehicle, which at town speeds is just about all you hear anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What could possibly etc...

      But I'd like to watch as the car decides it needs to take evasive action and steers off the path, straight into the Thames. Hope the test pilots can breathe underwater.

      Nah. What do you think that screen wipers are for?

      :)

  4. Nick Kew

    Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

    Someone pre-trialled driving a car in a pedestrian area in Westminster just two weeks ago.

    My first criterion for a place to be good to walk in is that it should be free of cars.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

      And second criterion for good walking area is free of cyclists (there's always a minority of cyclists who cycle far too fast & aggressively for a shared use path).

      N.B. This is from someone who occasionally, but does try not to be a lycra lout when doing so (I do quaint things like obeying red lights!)

      1. Mathman

        Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

        And yet statistically cyclists almost never hit pedestrians (unlike cars) despite the Lycra lout scaremongering.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

          statistically cyclists almost never hit pedestrians

          That depends on your ratios. Per km travelled by the bike or car, bikes are about the same for pedestrian KSI. But if you look at the chances of being hit per km walked, the ratio is dramatically skewed towards cars, for the simple reason that more km are driven than cycled by a very long way.

          Personally, I thing we should reintroduce wolves as a form of biological control for cyclists. Obviously we'd need to train them not to attack pedestrians or people using a bike because they have to. Train them to attack moving lycra, or people wearing helmets with GoPros, that'd probably do it.

          1. d3vy

            Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

            "That depends on your ratios. Per km travelled by the bike or car, bikes are about the same for pedestrian KSI. But if you look at the chances of being hit per km walked, the ratio is dramatically skewed towards cars, for the simple reason that more km are driven than cycled by a very long way."

            I cant imagine the number of deaths caused by being hit by a bike is that high?

            I wonder what the average speed of a bike vs the average speed of a car is? If I was to pick something to hit me at its average speed I'd pick a mostly squishy lycra clad human over a car any time.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

              " If I was to pick something to hit me at its average speed I'd pick a mostly squishy lycra clad human over a car any time."
              However, if it kills you, you are just as dead as if it had been a motor vehicle. Indeed, I suspect that since the injuries inflicted by "a mostly squishy lycra clad human" would be less severe, then the dying could very well take a lot longer.

              1. d3vy

                Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

                "I suspect that since the injuries inflicted by "a mostly squishy lycra clad human" would be less severe, then the dying could very well take a lot longer"

                ... Or just not happen at all?

                Are you seriously saying that because the WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME from being hit by a car and a bike is the same that you would rather be hit by the car for a faster death... given that I have NEVER heard of anyone dying as the result of being struck by a bicycle (Not saying its not happened - just that its rare) I'd still choose the bike every time.

                1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

                  "Or just not happen at all?"
                  'Hell Ride' cyclist fined $400 over man's deathI couldn't find a link to the incident in Northern Tasmania not very long ago; we're a bit backward here ;-)

                  IIRC that pedestrian also took a day or so to die. I'd definitely prefer to die quickly than slowly. But then I've experienced the preamble to a slow, lingering death before and have no wish to repeat it.

            2. Dan Wilkie

              Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

              I don't know, it's not an uncommon site to be sat at 20-25mph in traffic, seeing a group of cyclists pass you on the cycle path weaving in and out of the kids on the way to school.

              Doesn't happen when I go back to Gosport though, I'd imagine after the first few cyclists were clotheslined by the schoolkids and had their bikes nicked, word probably spread fast...

              Whilst it sounds negative, I'm always happier to see cyclists using the paths rather than riding next to them which was frequently the reason for the 10mph tailbacks that seem to be less frequent these days...

          2. m0rt

            Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

            "Obviously we'd need to train them not to attack pedestrians or people using a bike because they have to"

            This depresses me. "I don't think like you therefore I want bad things to happen to you".

            Even in obvious(?) jest.

          3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

            Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London @AC

            That depends on your ratios. Per km travelled by the bike or car, bikes are about the same for pedestrian KSI.

            That alternative truth came from the Times and just shouldn't be repeated even when followed by the meaningful version, which you did. Just let the BS twist of the statistics die. The full debunk is here:

            http://road.cc/content/news/109269-are-drivers-and-cyclists-just-dangerous-pedestrians

        2. CrazyOldCatMan

          Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

          And yet statistically cyclists almost never hit pedestrians

          Well - from anecdotal evidence (ie - me) I can say that's rubbish. I've never been hit by a car (although I've hit one or two!) but I've been hit a couple of times by cyclists[1]..

          [1] One of them was when attempting to stop the cyclist riding straight over one of my small dogs. He found 80kg of annoyed male considerably more of a hindrance than 6kg of dog. It's about the only time I've ever been tempted to clothesline someone..

          1. d3vy

            Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

            "Well - from anecdotal evidence (ie - me) I can say that's rubbish. I've never been hit by a car (although I've hit one or two!) but I've been hit a couple of times by cyclists[1].."

            I know you were not talking to me, but Ill just point out that this backs up my point. Hit by two bikes, did you die?

            Being hit by a bike is preferable to being hit by a car in every conceivable circumstance. :)

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

              "Being hit by a bike is preferable to being hit by a car in every conceivable circumstance. :)"
              I'd rather not be hit by either, frankly. A friend who's confined to her electric wheelchair pointed out to me that while she is restricted to a maximum speed of 10 km/h, there is no speed limit for cyclists using pedestrian footpaths.

              Bear in mind that a major cause of death in the elderly is falling. [18.5% of all external causes of death in Australia in 2010]. It's hard to imagine a collision between cyclist and pedestrian not resulting in a fall. I also note that the footpath I use where I am most frequently terrorised by cyclists is also frequented by young children.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

          And yet statistically cyclists almost never hit pedestrians (unlike cars) despite the Lycra lout scaremongering.

          True, they usually glance off on impact due to all the lycra. But it's still very disturbing.

    2. BebopWeBop

      Re: Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

      Could you elaborate - if pretrialling is a forward order for a product not available, (as used by all pathetic publicity hounds) then what is the equivalent here?

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "shouldn’t be a white-knuckle ride" - strange, I think he should have said "won't be a white-knuckle ride". Sounds like the boss isn't 100% convinced it's safe.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Get ready for a surprise!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Squashed jogger or two?

    Five cameras and three lasers will help the robo-motor navigate at up to 10mph along a riverside path used by pedestrians and cyclists.

    I'm thinking it will have trouble catching up with any joggers at that sort of speed.

    1. Jason Bloomberg
      Coat

      Re: Squashed jogger or two?

      It does seem the perfect environment for a test; joggers, cyclists, skaters, and skate-boarders over-taking, under-taking, cutting in, hanging on, coming head-on, with adults and children running across and wandering along the road in random directions, a fleet of autonomous cabbage crates making deliveries, and the occasional El Reg reporter cowering in the bushes, uncertain when to make a dash for it.

      I wonder if there will be a giant Roomba which also travels the route to clean up all the potential mess ?

      The one with the "Death Race 2000" ticket in the pocket, thank you.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Squashed jogger or two?

        > I wonder if there will be a giant Roomba which also travels the route to clean up all the potential mess ?

        Isn't that what the lasers are for ..... Whaddaya mean, they aren't MEGAWATT class lasers!

    2. 's water music
      Big Brother

      Re: Squashed jogger or two?

      >>Five cameras and three lasers will help the robo-motor navigate at up to 10mph along a riverside path used by pedestrians and cyclists.

      I'm thinking it will have trouble catching up with any joggers at that sort of speed.

      Hence the lasers. Presumably the riverside trial site is chosen with the sharks' welfare in mind.

      Icon for who is really driving in a driverless car

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make use of...

    Surely the safest place to conduct these trials would be on the miles and miles of cycle paths (paid for out of road tax mostly) that the cyclists are not using...

    1. Rob Gr

      Re: Make use of...

      There is no such thing as Road Tax in the UK. Sorry to disappoint you. There is vehicle tax, but roads are under the remit of local government (except motorways), so actually cyclists probably effectively subsidise motorists to use roads - they don't produce much wear.

      1. d3vy

        Re: Make use of...

        "There is no such thing as Road Tax in the UK. Sorry to disappoint you. There is vehicle tax, but roads are under the remit of local government (except motorways), so actually cyclists probably effectively subsidise motorists to use roads - they don't produce much wear."

        Also worth noting that the vast number of cyclists will also own cars and pay tax on those, so even if there was road tax they would be paying it.

        1. m0rt

          Re: Make use of...

          I get it. A lot of people don't like cyclists. We can hold you up on twisty roads, especially if there is an incline. There are cyclists who don't pay attention and can cause you stress, granted. A driver who doesn't pay attention, however, is more likely to cause serious injury.

          However, the attitude I encounter on the road is, quite frankly, crazy, but from a very, very few drivers. Deliberately buzzed, get beeped at. An idiot cyclist, for the most part, will cause a scratch on your car. An idiot car driver can easily cause serious injury and death.

          We all are allowed by law to use the roads. They are all of ours, paid for out of general taxation. This attitude that the road is for motored vehicles only is false. The only place where that is true are motorways or other roads that are specifically designated so.

          If you get held up a few minutes, so what? This general us vs them has no place on the road regardless of what you are in or on. If you think like that then you need to examine yourself. We are all trying to get somewhere. It is up to all of us to ensure we help each other to get there safely. If you don't like that, then hand your license in.

          Your attitude is dangerous.

          1. Halfmad

            Re: Make use of...

            Personally I have nothing against cyclists, I do however hate this them v us attitude from both sides. I live in a fairly rural community and what really grinds my gears (insert Peter Griffin here) is that planning it done almost entirely focused on cities when cycling clubs won't go out in the city for fun, they'll head to rural roads, as will family groups. Those are generally very poorly catered for, yeah you can get to cycling routes, if you shove your bikes on a car first.

            There's shit cyclists, there's shit drivers and there's shit pedestrians. The sooner we tackle the main problem - namely many of us having to commute for a job we could likely do at home the sooner we'd all be a little happier. productive and fatter.. I mean less stressed.

  8. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Trollface

    Keep death off the roads!

    Drive on the pavement

    1. Toastan Buttar

      Think once, think twice, think don't drive your car on the pavement

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmwBLln_VdM

    2. H G
      Unhappy

      Re: Keep death off the roads!

      As someone who walks a considerable distance to and from work on footpaths - no, just no. It may be a minority but there are still too many cyclists using footpaths are far too high of a speed and often without a bell that seem to expect I have eyes in the back of my head and will just jump into a bush/bin/gutter to move out of their way. No, it’s a shared space. Slow down when coming up behind people who are not aware of your presence, overtake sensibly if safe to do so else make people aware of your presence by ringing your bell and being polite and courteous when we do move to let you past.

      That said, the reason I walk (apart from the war crime my wearing skin tight clothing would be) is because I’m far to terrified to ride a bike on the roads in rush hour or any time.

      We all just need to get along.

      SOME cars don't respect bikes, SOME bikes don't respect pedestrians, but ultimately the majority of us are just getting along with getting on to wherever we’re going without killing anyone.

  9. DNTP

    "shouldn't be a white-knuckle ride"

    So obviously that should be a new experience for any Bostonians visiting London.

  10. Bucky 2
    Terminator

    Couldn't be worse than drivers around here

    I live near a resort town and several retirement communities. Human-piloted vehicles around here are completely unpredictable. They make right turns from left lanes, and vice-versa. Hit the brakes approaching green lights. Camp out in the passing lane, going 10 miles under the speed limit. Make U-turns anywhere and everywhere. Signaling for any purpose is completely out of the question.

    Autonomous vehicles couldn't be any more dangerous than that.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Couldn't be worse than drivers around here

      I'm sure the software could be modified to replicate those behaviours. You just have to ask nicely enough.

  11. Sleep deprived

    What a smart idea

    Testing driverless cars on car-free sidewalks and bike paths. Who would've though of that. What next? Testing Goggle's self-driving bicycle on highways?

  12. Rob Gr

    I believe the transport minister has bad form wrt cyclists and pedestrians:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/dec/15/transport-secretary-chris-grayling-knocks-over-cyclist-as-he-opens-his-car-door-video

  13. Ol'Peculier
    Mushroom

    News 24

    I saw them covering this on News 24 breakfast. The presenter in the studio asked what would happen if the car came across something like a dust-bin in it's path, would the car navigate around it?

    And watch the demonstrator squirm visibly...

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: News 24

      Dustbins - sometimes there's more than meets the eye to them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Judging by the speed of the car in the news report, it's quicker to walk

  15. Sir Sham Cad

    Used to take my young daughter in her buggy for walks along that path and I have very pleasant memories of bike rides down there and into Greenwich. Often with a pit stop at The Pilot inn.

    You can take your robot cars and fark orf with them thankyouverymuch!

  16. jason 7

    Saw it on the news today.

    Quite frankly it was embarrassing.

    You would be quicker to walk than the speed this...Playmobile designed 'pod' travels at. Looked like something Tomorrows World would have covered back in 1983.

    Waste of time.

    1. Stevie
      Pint

      Re: Saw it on the news today.

      Heh, Playmobile. Good one.

      Inwas thinking more Woody Allen's Sleeper, but I'll get you an e-pint in anyway.

  17. Fonant

    Safe, but too safe to be acceptable?

    I expect the trial will show that self-driving cars are basically "safe", but that they're too safe to make any useful progress compared to a jogger or person on a bicycle.

    Driving a car involves serious amounts of risk analysis, with the current average risk-to-progress ratio leading to a few thousand people being killed and hundreds of thousands being injured each year in the UK. I can't see this death toll being acceptable if caused by self-driving cars, especially in the early years when everyone is watching. So the risks taken by self-driving cars will have to be lower and the progress made by such cars significantly slower. The much-faster reactions of self-driving cars will mitigate this effect a little, but only by a few seconds more reaction time.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Safe, but too safe to be acceptable?

      I expect the trial will show that self-driving cars are basically "safe", but that they're too safe to make any useful progress compared to a jogger or person on a bicycle.

      and nowhere nearly as much fun as a hoverkart...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh bliss

    "Two hours later, in increasingly dark and spooky conditions with the occasional no-notice speeding cyclist for the added element of terror,"

    God help you if you moved outside a town or city. That's what we call normal.

  19. Red Ted Silver badge
    Joke

    I've spotted a new game...

    "...as well as carrying out emergency stops if somebody steps out in front of it."

    So the challenge is if can you make the passengers fall off their seats, or at least spill their coffees, if you suddenly step in front of it.. The game might need to of you, one to screen the other, so they can then leap out unexpectedly!

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