The Famous Isle of Man Could Lend Its Roads for Testing Driverless Cars

Isle of Man 1 photo
Photo: NH53 on Flickr
The Isle of Man is an interesting little place. Sitting in the Irish Sea just between England and Ireland, it’s a self-governed territory that relies mostly on tourism for income.
There’s no doubt that the one thing that put the Isla of Man on the map for most of us is the absolutely mad Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race, a motorcycle road racing event that is as spectacular as it is dangerous. That and the fact that there are no speed limits on the island’s roads.

With an area of just 572 square kilometers (or 221 square miles) and a population of about 90,000 inhabitants, the Isle of Man is self-governed by a local parliament that’s been in continuous existence since at least AD 979, making it the oldest known continuously governing body in the world.

So, what does all this have to do with driverless cars? Well, more than you’d think.

The autonomous vehicles are notoriously having troubles with the legislation, and these issues begin as early as the testing phase. In spite of the technological advancements, there aren’t that many driverless cars currently on public roads, and if you’re looking for someone to point your finger at, it’s the local governments.

There won’t be any such issues on the Isle of Man. The small community can have laws passed a lot more quickly than a regular legislator would, which would make the island’s territory ideal for all companies trying to test their products.

In fact, Phil Gawne, the transportation minister on the Isle of Man, has already contacted multiple companies that had expressed their interest in making the small island their testing bed. His promise? To have any necessary legal modifications ready by summer. Try and do that in the US.

Of course, testing the cars on a small island might not be enough to convince the skeptics, who would much rather see the self-driving vehicles fare through a crowded city. But it would make a great start. It would offer those developing these technologies a wonderful opportunity to find out more about the types of problems their cars might face, and have them ready to face the tougher future challenges with greater ease.

What’s in it for the Isle of Man residents and government? Believe it or not, having these driverless cars on the road could be a major tourist attraction. After all, these would be some of the first robots we’d see out in the open world. Speaking to the Washington Post, Phil Gawne said, “We’re very keen. We can see a lot of potential advantages for the island. It also helps in terms of the image of Isle of Man.

The Isle of Man TT was also the scene for the world’s first zero-emission motorcycle Grand Prix, a moment captured in a documentary called “Charge,” which we strongly advise you to watch. And let’s hope for a similar movie a few years from now documenting the advent of driverless cars on one of the strangest and contradicting places on Earth.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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