Championed by tech giant Google, driverless cars are widely purported to be the future of the road transport industry. However not everyone is in favour of the driver-free revolution, with some members of the public expressing concerns around privacy and more importantly safety.
While some may see this lack of wholesale acceptance as a barrier for the industry, some manufacturers are addressing these concerns head on. LikeHumansDo is a driverless car manufacturer based just outside Cambridge, part of so-called Silicon Fen.
Founder Ben Rickman started making driverless cars in 2012, after several years spent as a Postdoc at the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department. His aim was to build a computer that could act as the ‘perfect driver’, and his creation, e-Fred (after Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred) was more than up to scratch, with a flawless record in all public road tests.
However after speaking to members of the general public at various trade shows, he was dispirited. “They just didn’t trust the computer as much as a human being,” explains Ben. “It soon became clear that we would have to re-focus on creating a driverless car that drives exactly like a person.”
Ben and his team approached their task with renewed vigour, building additional features on top of the original e-Fred prototype. “We started with the basics, building in a tiredness feature that would steadily reduce alertness over time. We also found we could perfectly mimic a driver taking his eyes off the road by periodically turning off all e-Fred’s sensors.”
Over a painstaking period of months, LikeHumansDo developed road rage, late indication and occasional drunk driving into e-Fred’s arsenal. The driverless car’s performance in public road tests went down accordingly, much to the team’s pleasure. “Where previously we had no accidents, our car is now performing precisely at the level of an average human,” said Ben, describing the vehicle lovingly as “a danger to itself and other drivers.”
The car is still in the final testing stages, but overall Ben is delighted: “It even blows its horn when older drivers are slightly slow to pull off from traffic lights, and will occasionally stall in the middle of a junction. e-Fred is a car that your everyday driver can relate to, and I’m sure they will sell like hotcakes.”