Welsh rural roads perfect for driverless car testing, say academics

A group of academics believes that driverless cars are the answer to poor transport links and that Wales is the perfect place to test them.

The academics, from Glyndwr University’s engineering department, say Wales is the perfect place to test such cars due to its rural roads.

These roads are quiet and would complement cars that aren’t seen as suitable in city environments, they have said.

There would be many benefits, according to the researchers – such as putting Wales on the map when it comes down to innovation and improving the quality of life of rural residents.

In essence, the cars would act as taxis for those living in testing areas.

With these factors in mind, the university department has submitted its views to the Welsh Government.

Barry Johntson, a lecturer in low carbon at Glyndwr University, led the submission.

He said: “We believe that driverless cars have real potential to deliver a sustainable rural economy for Wales.

“There is a decline in rural populations as more and more young people head into the city to find work and the offset of this has been that public transport links have become even more infrequent – and non-existent in some areas.

“I think we’re looking at five to ten years before something like this could become a reality and it would of course need the consent of people living in rural areas, with all of their concerns addressed.”

Other ideas suggested by the academics to improve transport and sustainability in Wales, in particular at Glyndŵr University, include:

  • Adjusting the phasing of traffic lights in favour of pedestrians, encouraging more people to walk to work.
  • Introducing a system of integrated ticketing for bus, rail and other forms of public transport.
  • Improving rail services, including connecting the North to the South in a modern fashion.

Barry added: “Our thoughts and opinions are all about delivering transport innovation.

“Wales has almost unique geographic and logistical challenges, such as a gap in the middle of the country where there are particularly poor transport links within the gap as well as across it.

“Glyndŵr University has its own transport policy relating to staff and students, encouraging them to become greener, and this exercise with the Welsh Government is all about helping to contribute to a low carbon economy.”