Engineers, budding scientists, and policy-makers took part in an event at the NI Science Festival which examined the fascinating new world of self-driving vehicles.

This event looked at some of the ongoing work and tests which are being carried out on self-driving vehicles in GB and the US, to consider what needs to be done in Northern Ireland to adapt to the new world of autonomous vehicles.

Issues discussed ranged from the impact that these vehicles will have on our towns and cities, to the changes that they will bring to everyday activities such as shopping and commuting, as well as benefits in the form of improved road safety, and increased mobility.

The event was hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and guests heard a keynote presentation from Darren Capes, City of York Council, as well as contributions from Kellie Armstrong MLA, Seamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association, and Alex Boyle from the Department of Infrastructure.

IET fellow and keynote speaker, Darren Capes said:

“Whilst relatively little may be known by the wider population, self-driving vehicles are already here. There is actually a significant amount of work being carried out now to test these vehicles and plan for their inclusion in future transport systems which will change the way humans and goods get transported from place to place.

“At the IET we are looking at how we plan for these vehicles  in our cities, and what policy and engineering changes are required to accommodate what will be a step change in transport and transport systems.

“Self-driving or autonomous vehicles will revolutionise travel and will also help make travel safer, more efficient and also more environmentally friendly.”

Kellie Armstrong MLA who chaired the event said:

“Transport is an important issue for all of us and how technology influences the way we move from A to B is going to change hugely in the next couple of decades.

“Freight and the movement of goods is one area that will change dramatically as a result of self-driving vehicles, however I am also interested in how it will revolutionise travel for people with disabilities, or the elderly. Particularly in Northern Ireland where rural isolation is quite high, self-driving vehicles could be a very welcome advancement.”