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.
Picture yourself speeding down the highway with no hands on the wheel, checking your emails while your car takes care of responding to what’s happening on the road. Would you trust your car to make the right decisions? If you have doubts, you’re not alone.
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.
How do you design and build a robot that you can’t even see? And what would you use it for? In May, Horizon explores the developing field of nanorobotics and its potential applications. We speak to Prof. Brad Nelson at ETH Zurich in Switzerland whose team found that the nanobots they were working on destroyed the drugs they were meant to be delivering, so are now repurposing them to purify water. We speak to researchers who are using the origami-like properties of DNA to make tools such as nanorobotic boxes with lids that open, and others that have created a molecular robotic arm that can pick up, reposition and release molecules. And because tasks like going into a blood vessel to dissolve a dangerous clot would be ideal for a nanorobot, we find out how scientists are devising ways to enable nanorobots to travel through the bloodstream.
The asteroids in our solar system are the remnants of planetary formation. They hold clues about how the Milky Way formed, but they also hold promise and peril for humans as the source of both rich materials and potentially dangerous cratering events. This month we look at the latest in asteroid research. We speak to Dr Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist, about her work investigating asteroids, how to land on them and how to defend Earth from a dangerous event. We look in depth at how scientists in the field of planetary defence are developing rapid response techniques to detect an Earth-bound ‘imminent impactor’, determine within days whether it’s dangerous, and evacuate people from the danger zone. We speak to scientists studying exactly what asteroids are composed of so that we can categorise them from Earth, and we look at work studying asteroid dust to see what it can tell us about the early days of our solar system and the origins of life on our planet.
Farmed fish are increasingly becoming vegetarian, with plant-based feed now widely used in Europe. Researchers now want to optimise feed to promote fish growth and nutrition. To do this, they are studying fish gut bacteria and the impact of probiotic additives as well as testing nutrient supplements.
To find out, scientists are investigating fish gut bacteria and feed nutrients.
Meteorologist Jadranka Šepić is working to decipher waves that can destroy in minutes.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.