Driverless cars could be the key to tackling pollution across the West Midlands, a top environment chief has said.
Councillor Patrick Harley, portfolio holder for the environment for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said it was ‘an exciting time’ for autonomous vehicles and that science fiction was becoming reality.
And he added that driverless cars, buses and taxis could be travelling on the regions road within 10 years time.
“They’re doing a lot of work on the driverless cars right now,” says Councillor Harley.
“Which I know makes you think of a Back to the Future type thing, but it’s actually happening as we speak.
“So I can see in ten years time you may well be using buses and taxis that don’t have drivers, just on automatic pilot. And it seems like science fiction but the technology is already there, it’s already happening.
“And they’re already being used in airports such as Dubai by local companies who are already manufacturing these autonomous vehicles.
“So it’s quite an exciting time.”
Cllr Harley, who is also the leader of Dudley Council, said it took a while for the authority to fully get to grips with its new environmental brief following its formation in mid-2016.
However he says that the Combined Authority now has a very clear idea of what it wants to do in regards to the environment, with Mayor Andy Street due to outline ‘exciting’ plans regarding new transport technologies next week.
“The environmental brief is a relatively new one, so it’s taken a while to read it, put the meat on the bones and for it to grow and to walk,” Cllr Harley said.
“But we’re in a position now where we’ve got some key initiatives that we want to try and do some good work on across all seven mets (constituencies).
“We want to try and invest in and encourage these new technologies that are across these seven mets, such as greener vehicles, fuel-less vehicles.
“We have the businesses locally that are already invested in the technology that would allow us to cut emissions, and hopefully a lot quicker.
“I think what we need to do as a combined authority is encourage government to invest in the research and development wings of businesses like these that are already doing this work.”
The idea of developing autonomous vehicles in the West Midlands first arose in the Midlands Connect strategy back in March 2017, where it was championed as a way of reducing congestion on the region’s road networks as part of a 25-year-plan for the transport network.