This is an article from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in.
For those interested in this subject, there is a talk in Newport tonight (Thursday) being held by the IET on Marine Autonomy for the Royal Navy (free, but booking recommended). Ed
Driverless lifeboats could soon become a reality thanks to a pioneering centre on the south coast.
Representatives of The National Autonomy Centre, based around Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight, revealed its progress in the world of autonomous and driverless vehicles at last night’s (Wednesday) Solent Growth Forum.
In 2017 the centre received a grant of £457,000 from the Solent Growth Deal which aims to support economic growth by funding various projects in and around the area.
With this funding as well as the support of its partners, the centre has been able to create and experiment with several vehicles that do not require a driver.
These include lifeboats that can track and rescue people lost at sea, unmanned aircrafts and driverless cars that are able to navigate roads.
Military and Navy use
Robin Abbott, the centre’s programme manager, explained that their vehicles would be used predominantly by the military and Navy.
“These vehicles are already considered to be safer than manned cars especially for use in difficult applications. For example, we have created driverless machines that can carry stretchers off the battlefield. This would take human drivers out of danger.
“We have also designed machines that can detect and destroy mines, and that can take supplies out to wind turbines.
“The other point is cost, it saves money that would be spend on humans doing the same job.”
“Without the grant we never could have done it.”
Council leader: Fears for jobs
Councillor Simon Letts, from Southampton City Council, raised concerns that self-driving vehicles would take away jobs from people in the area.
“They will be a significant threat to those jobs. That is my fear.”
Baker: “Like nothing we have seen before”
Stuart Baker, head of local growth at the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, addressed this.
“This post technological age is like nothing we have seen before.
“We should be looking at creating those skilled workers here who can build the autonomous machines. That way there are still jobs here.”
Partners on the project
The centre is partnered with leading companies in the field: ASV Global, Blue Bear Systems Research, Marine Electronic Systems, SeeByte and the University of Southampton.
In total £1.5m has been spent on making the driverless vehicles.