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Driverless cars could spell a darker future

Lights out in the country? Credit: Flickr user fen-tastic

Yesterday’s The Times carried a story on driverless cars, and the impact they could have in curbing light pollution: A study published by Highways England suggests that driverless cars will reduce the need for street lighting because they’ll be guided by radar rather than sight.

The panel that compiled the report took evidence from The Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has mapped out the areas of the countryside that are most affected by ‘night blight’. A more immediate solution would be for the roadway authority to switch off the lights at night when there are fewer cars on the road and to install dimmable lights. But the RAC Foundation director was looking ahead:

“Maybe one day, when drivers have become passengers in their cars, we’ll consign lighting columns and headlamps to history and vehicles will glide past each other like ships in the night.”

Driverless cars will undoubtedly transform the world, but people remain painfully aware of the drawbacks and dangers of such technology – concerns about job losses and road safety are inevitable. A reduction in light pollution may be a small compensation, but to rural communities and environmentalists, the benefit is welcome news.