Toad Talks: Are remote-driving cars any safer than self-driving ones?

Self-driving cars aren’t even a feature on UK roads yet, but the UK government is already asking for opinions on remote-driving cars


MORNING coffee in hand, I’m scrolling some websites and getting a feel for what’s going on in the world. The topic that piqued my interest was spotted on the BMF website and is about remote driving vehicles. I was today years old when I found out that this was a thing!

We’ve been following the self-driving vehicle debate very closely here on Visordown, and we generally feel that the systems being touted as ‘the future’ of self or autonomous driving, aren’t really fit for purpose. Well, you could imagine my surprise when I read about a government consultation on remote driving, where a driver is in control of the vehicle, but cannot see, or hear it. In fact, they might not even be in the same county as the machine they are ‘driving’.

The BMF article, and the groups’ response to the consultation, seem to have hit home, with even the Law Commission highlighting the points raised by them in its analysis of the move. It’s interesting, and you can read it here, if a little scary to read, and talks about what to do if there is a crash, can the vehicle stop to prevent an accident without the remote ‘driver’ and so on. But It also highlights a number of points that don’t just make me worried about remote driving, but self and autonomous driving too.

You’d imagine that before beginning a roll-out of technology of this type, the government would make sure that all those affected, in this case, road users, were safely taken into account in every scenario. It seems that is not the case though. One point that seems to not be covered by legislation is motorcycles when they are filtering. And I find that more than just a little bit scary. Bikes changing lanes in front and behind vehicles are monitored and covered by UNECE Regulation 157. Motorcycles that could be legally filtering between and alongside these vehicles quite literally fall through the cracks.

Moreover, the BMF is asking for better crash detection systems, that can even detect the lightest of bumps across the entirety of the vehicle. It makes total sense to do this, and the fact it isn’t already just highlights how blind the government are to this kind of thing. Any light knock from a large, heavy, four-wheeled (or more) vehicle on a motorcycle could have a catastrophic outcome. The bike might not actually hit the offending vehicle very hard, but that causes a chain reaction of events that could see the bike and rider colliding with another vehicle as a result. To give that rider as much of a chance as possible, surely even the lightest of knocks, bumps and even close calls should be logged and registered by the vehicle and the driver – be them in the vehicle or not.

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