Self-driving the Isle of Man
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ISLAND A PREMIER SITE FOR TESTING OUT NEW TECHNOLOGY IN VEHICLES
The Isle of Man Government is pushing through legislation to allow the island to become a prime location for the testing of self-driving cars.
The Isle of Man is best known in automotive circles for its lack of speed limits and famous TT motorbike race, but soon it could have a new claim to fame as it looks to become a premier site for car manufacturers and technology giants to develop self-driving cars.
The Manx Government is reportedly setting up a focus group with the aim of evaluating the technology’s suitability to the island, and to work out whether laws need to be changed in order to accommodate self-driving car research.
The group is also considering incentives the Government could offer to companies to persuade them to set up self-driving car research arms on the island.
The compact nature of the island’s Government is thought to be an asset in drawing up new legislation speedily – meaning the Isle of Man could have new laws in place to cover self-driving cars much sooner than larger legislatures.
Phil Gawne, the island’s Minister for Environment, Food & Agriculture, says that the group’s work could take as little as a month, with the necessary legal changes complete just two or three months after that.
The Isle of Man is famous for its TT race. Picture / Supplied
“We’re very keen. We can see a lot of potential advantages for the island,” he told the Washington Post.
“It also helps in terms of the image of Isle of Man. We like to be innovative on the island, and we like also to be independent. This helps both those areas in terms of our reputation.”
No self-driving car companies have openly expressed an interest in the scheme yet, but experts say that it could potentially bring benefits for manufacturers.
“Things can be tried on an island that may not be practical in a city,” said David Alexander, senior research analyst at Navigant Research.
“On the mainland there will always be someone who wants to go beyond the range of the trial and will then proclaim how useless autonomous cars are.”
Also, on the British mainland, the design of the first autonomous vehicles to hit the streets of London has been revealed.
The Gateway project will use driverless pods adapted from those used on tracks at Heathrow Airport to transfer passengers from the business parking area to Terminal Five. Seven of the vehicles will be tested on the roads of Greenwich in July.