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Autonomous car by Nissan

It was announced last week that a number of automakers are set to begin testing their self-driving cars in the coming weeks hinting at the fact that driverless vehicles are going to be the future of travel and transport – whether you like it or not.

Nissan announced that it will start testing its self-driving car in London in February. According to sources, modified versions of the Nissan Leaf electric car will be tested out in public roads in Europe as an initial step. The reason for selecting London was possibly due to the challenging nature of the city’s roads, offering a difficult test and prime data-gathering opportunity for the automakers.

London is quickly becoming a hub of self-driving car tests. In addition to this forthcoming test, the following tests have been announced or begun:

In early 2015, certain localities on the outskirts of London and around England moved to permit self-driving tests. The trials were to last around 18 to 36 months, though none were to be conducted on public roads.

Volvo will deploy unmarked self-driving cars in the city sometime in 2018. This is particularly noteworthy, as the vast majority of autonomous cars on the roads until this point have some sort of special marking on them, perhaps making consumers behave differently around them.

Driverless shuttles deployed as part of Greenwich’s Gateway program were unveiled in early 2016. The larger project is part of a public-private partnership with the city in the Greenwich area.

This is likely a result of London’s relatively diverse roadways. The city has wide main streets along with windy, centuries-old roads. Further, unlike tests in the US, the AI powering the vehicles tested needs to adapt to driving on the left side of the road. To perfect the systems behind self-driving cars, it’s best for them to be exposed to as many different environments as possible.

Meanwhile, Singapore signed an agreement last October to start testing self-driving buses, as the city-state pushes ahead with its vision of using autonomous technology to help deal with the challenges posed by its limited land and labour. It was also reported that Singapore was looking at possibilities to use self-driving vehicles for street cleaning and refuse collection purposes.

Last week, a small autonomous bus called Arma ran a short route along Las Vegas’ Fermont Street marking the first time a self-driving bus has moved passengers on an American Public road.  This was only a pilot test, which started on January 11th and ended on January 20th. While the test lasted, the fully-electric bus carried around a dozen passengers, moving at a top speed limited to 16 miles per hour though the bus is capable of hitting 30. The bus has sensors that detect obstacles and an emergency button that any passenger can use to stop the vehicle. During the test, there was also a staffer on board to monitor passenger safety.