Could self-driving cars ever really replace human drivers? How will they interact with other traffic? Who would be liable in the event of an accident?
As self-driving cars accelerate towards reality, we explore some of the key questions surrounding the future of automated transport. We find out that city-dwellers could soon be transported around the streets in automated pods, whereas those that live in the country will depend more and more on their car to perform routine tasks such as parking and cruising on the motorway.
We talk to the researchers who are designing ways for automated cars to talk to each other so they can switch lanes, cross junctions and organise into platoons without the help of humans.
We also explore how the EU is teaming up with the US and Japan to share ideas and make self-driving cars a global reality, and how one of the next big challenges is to come up with a set of rules and regulations before self-driving systems can be introduced.
Driverless cars may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but according to Dr Jean-Luc Di Paola-Galloni, co-chairman of the European Road Transport Advisory Council (ERTRAC), they could be on our roads in just four years’ time, and so the EU needs to regulate that.
People in cities will shift from using private transport to using self-driving public taxis, as fleets of shared, low-speed electric cars are introduced over the next decade, according to European researchers working on the future of automated transport.
In November, Horizon discovers a futuristic world of transparent e-books, plastic solar cells and electronic skin with a look at some of the applications of organic electronics. We speak to organic chemist Prof. Andreas Hirsch about how using carbon rather than silicon in electronics can make them flexible, lightweight and biocompatible and could lead to a new generation of human-looking robots and ‘chemical’ computing. We take a look at work to create electronic skin – self-healing, stretchable material that can mimic some of the functions of human skin – and its potential uses. We discover how thin, flexible, plastic solar cells could turn surfaces such as cars and fabric into sources of renewable energy, and we uncover some novel approaches to charging wearable electronics.
The world looks very different from this time last year. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the centrality of science, research and innovation, accelerated some changes already in the works, but also exposed our weaknesses. In September, Horizon looks at how the pandemic is reshaping Europe in areas including health research, work, tech, transport and food – and how research can contribute to Europe’s recovery over the coming years. We will also be covering the European Research & Innovation Days at the end of the month, which will bring together scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs and citizens to debate how research and innovation can ensure that the transition to a post-coronavirus society is sustainable, inclusive and resilient.
Thanks to rapid computing developments in the last decade and the miniaturisation of electronic components, people can, for example, track their movements and monitor their health in real time by wearing tiny computers. Researchers are now looking at how best to power these devices by turning to the user’s own body heat and working with garments, polka dots and know-how from the textile industry.
Researchers are harnessing the thermoelectric effect.
Scientists are studying past conditions to understand which corals migrated to deeper waters.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.