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Wales ideal to trial driverless car use, say academics

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Driverless cars could provide the answer to poor public transport links in rural areas of Wales and the nation’s country roads are an ideal place to pioneer their use, say a group of university academics.

Engineers at Glyndŵr University believe that, subject to local consultation, opportunities to trial use of the revolutionary vehicles should be prioritised in Wales.

Far from being best suited to city driving, driverless cars have the potential to be used most effectively on the steep, narrow, slow and sinuous roads of Wales, they say.

They have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life in these areas, in essence being used as taxis.

The academics have submitted their views on the subject to the Welsh Government to help inform its Transport Strategy for Wales.

Barry Johnston, lecturer in low carbon in Glyndŵr University’s engineering department, led the submission.

He said: “We believe that driverless cars have real potential to deliver a sustainable rural economy for Wales.

“There is a decline in rural populations as more and more young people head into the city to find work and the offset of this has been that public transport links have become even more infrequent – and non-existent in some areas.

“I think we’re looking at five to ten years before something like this could become a reality and it would of course need the consent of people living in rural areas, with all of their concerns addressed.”

Other ideas suggested by the academics to improve transport and sustainability in Wales, in particular at Glyndŵr University, include:

  • Adjusting the phasing of traffic lights to favour pedestrians, encouraging more people to walk to work
  • Introduce a system of integrated ticketing for bus, rail and other forms of public transport, similar to Transport for London
  • Improve rail services, including electrification the coastal line to Holyhead and cutting drastically the journey time by rail from North to South Wales.

Barry added: “Our thoughts and opinions are all about delivering transport innovation. Wales has almost unique geographic and logistical challenges, such as a gap in the middle of the country where there are particularly poor transport links within the gap as well as across it.

“Glyndŵr University has its own transport policy relating to staff and students, encouraging them to become greener, and this exercise with the Welsh Government is all about helping to contribute to a low carbon economy.”

More information on transport for Wales

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