UK to allow driverless cars on public roads – BBC News

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Driverless car

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The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones takes a ride in a driverless car

The UK government is to outline measures to permit driverless cars to use public roads by next year.

Currently, autonomous vehicles are only allowed on private roads.

The Department for Transport had previously pledged to allow self-driving cars to be trialled on public roads by the end of 2013.

In December, the Treasury said it would create a £10m prize to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for the cars.

The government wants to signal that Britain can be a leader in such technology, and Business Secretary Vince Cable will announce measures to boost research later.

In his National Infrastructure Plan of 2013, Chancellor George Osborne outlined his goal to ensure “that the legislative and regulatory framework demonstrates to the world’s car companies that the UK is the right place to develop and test driverless cars”.

UK engineers, including a group at the University of Oxford, have been experimenting with driverless cars. But, concerns about legal and insurance issues have so far restricted the cars to private roads.

Automotive engineering firm MIRA has tested its vehicles at an 850-acre site in the Midlands.

However, other countries have been swifter to allow autonomous cars on their public roads.

Nissan Autonomous Drive TechnologyNissan is one of many companies developing self-drive vehicles

The US States of California, Nevada and Florida have all paved the way for the vehicles. In California alone, Google’s driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road.

In 2013, Nissan carried out Japan’s first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway.

And the Swedish city of Gothenburg is to allow 1,000 Volvo driverless cars to take to the road by 2017.

In May, Google unveiled plans to manufacture 100 self-driving vehicles.

The search-giant exhibited a prototype which has no steering wheel or pedals – just a stop-go button.

Google has also put its autonomous driving technology in cars built by other companies, including Toyota, Audi and Lexus.

Other major manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and General Motors, are developing their own models.

And automated parking is among the innovations being introduced.

But concerns about the safety of driverless cars have been raised by politicians in the US and elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the FBI warned that driverless cars could be used as lethal weapons, predicting that the vehicles “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car”.


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