How are we going to transport ourselves in the year 2050? TU Delft TV went to the Researchlab Automated Driving Delft (RADD) to see what their vision is and how they are working towards it.
The Researchlab opened at the Green Village last June to test the automated vehicles. “It’s handy for sure to have a test terrain so close,” says Koen Lekkerkerker, who is working on the WEpod, a vehicle that drives independently. Delft is not the first campus in the Netherlands where self-driving shuttles make their rounds. Wageningen started a pilot two years ago. There you can travel by WEpod one day a week. But not everyone is using it. “For now, the maximum speed is 25 kilometres an hour, so many students prefer the bike,” says Lekkerkerker.
Why does it go so slow? “The traffic situations inside a city are the hardest,” Lekkerkerker continues. "The highway is relatively easy, as everything behaves in a structured way. But then, when you go into a district or a city, you have people walking around, a ball that rolls onto the street … That’s why we have started with such slow speeds. Currently, we are developing a new bus that can reach 50 kilometres an hour.”
In the video, Lekkerkerker raises an ethical issue that must be dealt with when developing a self-driving car. In the case of an accident about to happen, a driver normally chooses a course of action in a nanosecond without even thinking about it. But in the case of self-driving cars, the decision has already been made when programming it. “How far can you go?” Lekkerkerker asks. “If you have to choose between two people, and you find out that one has a criminal record, do you take that into account? And how far can privacy go? It’s something to think about now and in the future as now we are not far enough that our vehicles can make these decisions.”
But the future is coming. In 2018, a WEpod shuttle will take travellers from the carpark to the terminal at Weeze airport. “It’s hard to say when everything will be fully autonomous,” says Lekkerkerker. “I think it will be 30 years before we have cities full of self-driving cars, at all speeds on all kinds of roads. We are doing our best to make that possible.”