Letter: The Isle of Wight could be UK testing area for driverless cars. Good idea?

Driverless cars are coming. With its closed boundary, the Isle of Wight could be a great testing area for this technology, bringing income, jobs and high tech companies to the Island, suggests an OnTheWight reader. Do you agree?

Self driving car

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below. This from Chris Innis in Niton. Ed

The Island is looking for new industries, and historically it has always been a place for new industry. The driverless car will be the smart phone of the future, providing similar changes in social behaviour that have occurred from the fixed to the mobile phone.

Why not make the Isle of Wight the site for testing driverless cars in the UK?

Several advantages
We are a well defined area and sea boundaries mean that no driveless car can escape. Our road system is varied lending itself to testing.

We have an older population and an older population will be one of the main beneficiaries of the driverless car.

We are close to one of the main ports for importing cars, Southampton. We have the industrial parks and inherent engineering skills.

New skills and higher paid jobs
The pioneering of driverless cars on the Island will bring new jobs, higher paid jobs, technology and new skills.

The jobs will be local, especially important. It will also bring some of the great names in technology and innovation to the Island.

With any Government keen to kept the automotive industry in the UK post Brexit, isn’t this something our political leaders should get behind, a innovative Wight will be a brighter Wight.

Image: romanboed under CC BY 2.0

Saturday, 29th October, 2016 1:58pm


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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. Come back when you have something to relay after talking to Google!

  2. THis is a great idea.

    However, engineering companies on the Island, of which there are around 100, are more interested in attracting graduates from the mainland than training up home-grown talent.

    If industry were to contribute more, with work experience and apprenticeships, with time out for University in between work, students could achieve a degree over maybe 4-5 years, and get industry experience at the same time.

    THis could be a phenomenal place for students to train in industry, whether it be engineering, tourism, or any other industry. However, it won’t happen. There isn’t the will to make it happen at the moment. It’s all about what someone else will do for you, hence the mutterings about an IOW university to train up graduates for industry. When people realise that its what you can do for yourself and others that matters, attitudes might change.

    • In that case we will have to go back to first principle. With a man / woman walking in front with a red flag for safety.

      One pedestrian has already has died on a public road in America due to a driver less car accident.

  3. I wonder if Google can retrofit their driverless tech to an old Enfield 8000..?

  4. A whole spectrum of industries are looking at drive less cars, it isn’t just Google, every software company, every automotive manufacturer, groups in tele metrics and you could go further. It is not just about the cars but insurers will be interested to set risk premiums, police in new traffic laws, signage companies in signage.

    We have a tradition of innovation, lost in recent years, let’s get it back!

  5. Island Monkey

    29.Oct.2016 7:04pm

    Terrible idea, the problem with this is simple, it’s about speed and control.

    Can you seriously imagine this new Orwellian utopia, where Big Brother restricts all of us by imposing speed limits on our vehicles? They’re already doing it subtly, calling them ‘smart motorways’- which effectively force you to comply with the law, or else face hefty fines and a ban.

    Much of the M25 has cameras and the M3 will soon have half of its length controlled by speed cameras. They will restrict your speed still further, claiming driving more slowly creates less pollution. The poor old motorist who pays for it all is seen as a dumb cash-cow by politicians of all colours.

    Our future is dull, and it’s controlled – whether google steers your car or you do.

    • retired hack

      29.Oct.2016 8:00pm

      I think you mean dystopia, but that apart from that, what on earth is any legal system about, utopian or dystopian, if it’s not to “effectively force you to comply with the law, or else face hefty fines and a ban”. If you want to know what happens when motor traffic is subject to no effective means of legal control, you need look no further than India, where in 2015 there were 146,133 fatalities. Think I’ll stick with Orwell…

    • What Mr Monkey makes me think about, (“control”), is that one day ‘the system’ will be able to slow down and stop your car by itself, a new kind of ‘stop and search’!

    • paranoid android

      29.Oct.2016 8:21pm

      If you dont want a hefty fine and a ban, drive within the speed limit.

      Driving “more slowly” prevents people dying.

      Driverless cars are a good idea – once they begin working. Realistically, its likely to end up with automated motorways and self drive towns and cities – which is exactly how it should be.

      • CHRIS P LAMB

        30.Oct.2016 9:06am

        “Driverless cars are a good idea” Ask the relatives of the dead American whose driverless car crashed due to a squashed moth on the camera. That’s something they hadn’t thought of.

        • That story is apocryphal.

          A car being tested handed back control to the human driver when a moth got on one of the sensors. The driver stopped the car safely. That problem has now been addressed.

          Where well designed computer driven cars are better than human operators is that they don’t:

          Get tired
          Take drugs
          Sing along to soft rock classics and do air grabs
          Get distracted by beautiful landscapes
          Blindly follow GPS instructions even if that means driving through a river in full flood
          Take phone calls or send text messages
          Try shaving/applying make up if they’re running late
          Ogle particularly attractive members of the human race
          Day dream
          Take unnecessary risks in marginal decisions
          Show off to their friends

          The list of human failings is a very long one.

          • Suruk the Slayer

            1.Nov.2016 8:31am

            The Autopilot on a Tesla Model S was, indeed, disabled by a moth in the sensor and, as you say, the car safely handed control back to the driver.

            There has been one fatality involving Tesla Autopilot, where a Tesla Model S collided with an large 18 wheel articulated lorry. The investigation has determined that the accident was caused by the Autopilot’s failure to differentiate between the bright white sides of the truck and the road markings.

            Another factor is that Tesla’s Autopilot is not “driverless” technology. It is “semi autonomous” and is used on open roads under driver supervision. It keeps the car in lane and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

            The driver in the above incident was speeding (by quite a margin, according to the truck driver), so when the truck crossed in front of it the Autopilot became briefly confused by the large white truck and didn’t have time to react. The truck driver also maintains that the Tesla driver was watching a movie at the time (Harry Potter, I believe).

            Again, it should be noted that Tesla’s Autopilot is *not* “driverless” technology and Tesla state in their operating manual that the driver should continue to pay attention to the road whilst using it, as if they were driving themselves.

            Tesla have since updated their software to prevent the vehicle exceeding the speed limit when autopilot is engaged.

    • I’m not sure if IM is:

      a. Trolling
      b. Dangerously paranoid about the control an oppressive state wants over every element of his life
      c. Incredibly selfish to the extent that his desire to drive quickly is more important than everyone else’s expectation of sensible safety precautions

      Perhaps he can enlighten me?

      For my view, anything that moves the balance towards a safer society without undue limitation on efficient movement is absolutely fine.

      • Island Monkey

        29.Oct.2016 11:32pm

        If Big Brother is able to convince the majority that these control measures are for the common good, then we’re all doomed to live in an increasingly controlled world. Where’s David Icke when you need him?

        You don’t have to think for yourself here, it’s all laid on.

      • A bit strong in response to IM, Daveiow. Not the way to change minds, imho, apart from anything else, and putting yourself more in the position of what you attribute to him.

        I think the issue of a generally more controlled society is an interesting one to discuss.

        I see there was a report in July this year of a death in a driverless car – from Financial Times:

        “A car that was driving itself has been involved in a fatal crash for the first time, after a person at the wheel of one of Tesla Motors’ electric cars that was operating under its own control was killed in the US.

        The death was revealed by the company on Thursday, a day after it was notified that federal regulators were investigating the role its technology may have played in the accident.

        Tesla sought to deflect blame from its Autopilot feature, which was the most advanced driving-assistance technology on the road when it was launched last October. The company claimed that both the unnamed driver and its technology had failed to notice the imminent danger just before the accident occurred, though it did not explain how it came to that conclusion or what kind of investigation it had carried out”.

        • paranoid android

          30.Oct.2016 12:02pm

          Island Monkey will never change his mind. He enjoys taking the worst possible view of everything and values argument over everything else – not that he participates after a while, but he seems to like starting arguments for others to pursue. The answer was, in fact, A.

          “The company claimed that both the unnamed driver and its technology had failed to notice the imminent danger just before the accident occurred, though it did not explain how it came to that conclusion or what kind of investigation it had carried out”.”

          Urm… If either the driver or the technology had noticed the imminent danger – they would have acted to prevent the crash. No investigation needed to work that one out.
          As I recall, the car crashed into a white painted truck which was reflecting sunlight off the side – hence was not noticed as the driver and the technology were effectively blinded. Also, i believe the truck had gone through a stop sign when it shouldnt have – so the crash was probably unavoidable anyway.

          • I think the term ‘troll’ needs to be strictly reserved for something at an extreme – and then there’s no doubting it. You don’t ask yourself whether someone’s trolling or not, it’s blindingly and nastily obvious!

            And how many of us change our minds? :s

            Or like to be argumentative? :s

            There wouldn’t be much going on here if people didn’t argue.

            You need people to ‘prime’ a topic sometimes, even if they drop out after a while. We’re capable of behaving well in response, even if (in other cases) they haven’t.

          • paranoid android

            30.Oct.2016 12:52pm

            look up the definition of a troll.

            there is no need to be argumentative in a discussion. People can have opposing viewpoints without starting arguments.

          • And I think IM was presenting a pov that others may not like, but it’s fair enough he says it.

            The issue of increasing surveillance in our lives, and the balance of benefit and loss of autonomy, is up for grabs.

          • paranoid android

            30.Oct.2016 2:33pm

            and others gave their point of view – one of which was that IM was possibly a troll, which happens to tie in with my point of view.

            Im not sure why others giving their point of view seems to be a problem for you? I could perhaps understand it if someone called you a troll and you defended yourself. IM is quite capable of defending himself and putting his point over – yet he never does after the initial post to rock the boat.

          • Well, if you’re averse to disagreements on a forum, p.a, (what you call having “a problem”), similarly, to having a view on someone else’s post and how it is treated by others, then there’s really nowhere left to go.

            In any case this has become tiresome, (at least to me), as well as off topic, so I’m leaving it here.

          • paranoid android

            30.Oct.2016 5:32pm

            Stop putting words in my mouth.

            I am not adverse to disagreements.

            You seem to have a problem with DaveIOW and myself saying that IM is possibly a troll.

            You COULD have simply said you disagreed and moved on.

            Instead, you decided to tell us that the term Troll should be reserved for extremes. Thats your point of view, and thats fine if you just tell us about it. However, your implication is that others should abide by what you think, which is not fine.

            You’re quite right, this is going nowhere, nor will it unless you accept that everyone can say what they think without having to agree, and other peoples point of view does not neccessarily have to abide by the rules that you have decided on.

    • Suruk the Slayer

      30.Oct.2016 7:24pm

      Ummmm, we already have speed limits imposed.

      It’s just some idiots choose to ignore them.

  6. John Gutheil

    29.Oct.2016 7:36pm

    What happens to the Drink Driving Law if your ‘re not driving the car???

  7. SaferRoadsPlease

    29.Oct.2016 8:50pm

    Driverless cars potentially offer a great solution to a major problem on the island.
    In rural locations, with poor public transport, everyone is dependent on the car.
    However, the demographics of the island mean that there are a lot of old people on the roads. The majority are excellent, experienced and highly competent drivers. Unfortunately, though, there is a significant minority that really should no longer be driving. They drive slowly on country roads and actually speed up when they enter towns; they make poor judgement at junctions and generally are not safe to themselves or others. My parked car and two others, 60 yards apart, were hit by an old guy who got his foot stuck under the brake pedal of an automatic, not his first accident. Every week we read on this website and other island news sites about one accident after another.
    A driverless car would give these people the flexibility and freedom that they deserve, not possible through a limited public transport system, without endangering or impacting on the lives of others. There is a huge benefit to this technology, so we should support it for many reasons, including the kudos and jobs that it would bring to the island but, mostly, to improve the safety on our roads.

  8. All for new technology coming to the island, but can you imagine trying to programme a driverless car getting round Coppins Bridge? Ohhh I don’t know though….could be better than the way some tackle it!

  9. Kerry yeomans

    30.Oct.2016 8:21am

    It might improve the driving standards ????

  10. Who is supposed to be buying these driverless cars for all these Island drivers, many of whom currently drive old bangers over a decade old? They aren’t exactly cheap.

  11. trainofthought

    30.Oct.2016 11:22am

    Driverless cars? We need less cars of any sort on the roads, anything else is greenwash.

    There is no quick fix: Our Government needs to invest in a decent Public Transport system – not more runways or “smart” motorways or high status speed rail projects, but good, local, affordable non-privatised Public Transport.

    Time to bring back the trains to the Island!

    • paranoid android

      30.Oct.2016 12:05pm

      yeah… bring the trains back.

      And watch them run empty whilst everyone drives their cars because its more convenient, cheaper, and not subject to cancellations because of the wrong kind of coffee and a lack of hot chocolate.

  12. Trainofthought

    30.Oct.2016 6:11pm

    Oil is running out and will soon get more expensive. Cars are not the future: Even electric cars cost a lot of resources to produce and contribute to small particulate emissions as the weight of the battery makes breaks and tires wear more quickly.

    Electric trains – preferably powered by renewables – are more efficient as they take more people in one go. If they are affordable, i.e. not privatised, and you have good, comprenhensive connections all over the Island, people will use them.

    Look at how many people use the buses, especially those for whom it is free. Trains and trams are more convenient than buses and complement them beautifully. Whether you like it or not, they are the future and the Island would could be at the forefront.

    Where is the Vision from our representatives?

    • paranoid android

      30.Oct.2016 6:34pm

      The weight of the engine in a car wears the brakes and tyres just as much if not more than batteries do. Engines also produce a hell of a lot more small particle emissions in their exhaust.

      Trains require massive amounts of power – running them off renewables is not feasible at this time. Privatising trains is the only way to run them properly. British Rail was so inefficient it was unreal – as is any government run organisation. By affordable, you must mean taxpayer subsidised – an arrangement which is never efficient.

      Trains were the future 150 years ago. Like it or not, they have had their day. Trains are good for long distance transport. Local transport requires cars – ideally electric and self drive – one of the most efficient systems available.

      If you want vision – perhaps you should do some research. I would suggest a quick google search for whether road or rail is more efficient. Electric cars are more efficient. End of.

      • Suruk the Slayer

        1.Nov.2016 9:13am

        Some interesting figures. Various forms of transport converted to equivalent mpg:

        Family electric car : 110 mpg
        Modern small 900cc turbo car (Daihatsu Charade) : 100mpg
        Small Turbo Diesel : 70 mpg
        Petrol Hybrid (Toyota Prius) : 66 mpg

        Modern airliner : 109 passenger miles per gallon

        Cruise ship : 20 passenger miles per gallon

        Train (US) : 562 passenger miles per gallon

        Modern Bus (full) : 440 passenger miles per gallon
        Modern Bus (average UK occupancy of 9) 99 passenger miles per gallon.

        Walking : 432 mpg
        Cycling : 879 mpg
        e-bike : 597 mpg

        So, cycling is the most efficient form of transport, and taking the train is more eco-friendly than walking.

        • I think we’ve all known for many years that the most efficient form of transport is the bicycle.

          But laziness and a lack of infrastructure prevents us from taking up cycling as a regular mode of transport.

          I’m sure if many of us had secure bicycle storage and a shower facility at work, we’d soon start cycling to work.

          Cycle paths that are physically separated from motorised traffic would help too.

          But these things cost money.

          And while successive governments like to talk green, they’re disinclined to reduce the tax haul they receive from oil companies.

  13. What a ridiculous idea. I find the comment “older population will be one of the main beneficiaries of the driverless car” an insult to mature drivers. As a very experienced driver in all licence categories and in the past was a driving accessor, the worst drivers on the island seem to be the Yummy Mummy’s who have tunnel vision and no idea of road law etc.

    • The available evidence suggests that both views are wrong.

      The drivers most likely to be involved in an accident are young men.

    • Was with you all the way, Fazza, till your casually offensive remark about mothers, who presumably will have as much knowledge of road law as anyone else who’s passed their driving test.

      And we’re all prone to tunnel vison for a multitude of reasons, such as the way we pick on a group and blame them.

      • I can only comment on my experience whilst driving on the island. It is not offensive to mention a certain group of people whom in majority I have seen driving in an arrogant way without giving way when possible in narrow lanes etc. We all learn the Highway Code and unfortunately our driving standards drop after passing the driving test.
        I find your comment offensive that I have picked on a group and blame them. But saying that certain people on this site seem to think that they are the only people that are correct in their thoughts and nobody else’s comments are valid.

        • I’m really looking forward to Nico’s explanation of how “Yummy Mummy” is a demeaning and pejorative term.

          That Fazza doesn’t immediately see that is a terrifying betrayal of his underlying values.

          • In 2 posts, no mention at all of children to suggest ‘Mummy’.
            Sounds as though being female may be sufficient to condemn a driver!

            I’m not sure how a forum is supposed to work if we can’t bounce off each others’ comments and agree or disagree.

            Daveiow :)

  14. Peter Geach

    5.Nov.2016 5:43pm

    Weve got mindless driving! Why not go the next stage and have driverless cars!

  15. Common Sense

    5.Nov.2016 9:12pm

    Because driverless cars ARE mindless driving. Also, it costs millions to instal the scheme, money that would be much better spent on good, decent Public Transport and Cycleways….

  16. the auditor

    27.Dec.2016 9:00am

    After careful assessment of the abysmal standard of driving on the Isle of Wight during my last visit, driverless cars will probably be a significant improvement to road safety…

  17. powerunseen

    29.Dec.2016 11:18pm

    We won’t have anyone to shake our fist at.

  18. sootywight

    12.Jan.2017 1:05pm

    Perhaps we should also test out driving on the right.

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