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UK launches £10m scheme to host driverless car trials in January

Announces regulatory measures to legally allow autonomous cars on UK roads
Thu Jul 31 2014, 14:46

DRIVERLESS CARS will be allowed on UK roads next January, UK busness secretary Vince Cable has announced, with two new regulatory measures legally allowing autonomous car technology to be developed and tested on public roads from 2015.

At the moment, self-driving cars are only allowed on private roads, but Cable outlined measures on Wednesday to permit driverless cars to use public roads by early next year as as he wants Britain to be a leader in such technology.

The measures allow for the development and testing of fully autonomous vehicles where there are no conventional driving controls fitted as well as conventional cars with autopilot or self-driving features.

The UK government is setting aside £10m in funding as part of the scheme, which will serve as a competition prize that three UK cities can bid for to host a driverless cars trial. The Mayor's office has since confirmed that London hopes to bid for one of the three positions to host the trails. The test programs will start in January 2015 and last between 18 and 36 months, carried out alongside local businesses and research organisations, the Business Secretary said.

"The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as a pioneer in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects," explained Cable.

"Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than 6 months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society. 

It's been known that autonomous cars are coming for some time and are already being developed by firms including Google and Nissan. The Department for Transport (DfT) had previously pledged to allow self-driving cars to be trialed on public roads in the UK by the end of 2013, and 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.

In June, we reported that the government was considering altering local road use policies to reflect that fact that driverless cars will soon be roaming our streets, and if toay's rumours are true it seems the government is keen to catch up with other countries that are already allowing driverless cars on their public roads, despite concerns about legal and insurance issues.

Science minister David Willetts made the backseat comments on this in an interview with the Daily Mail last month, and said that Britain will blaze a trail that is already being tested in the US. Willetts wants the UK to catch up with the work that Google has spent millions on, and reckons that it has a decent chance. Recent trials in Milton Keynes and Oxford suggest that this is the direction we are moving.

However, some people are relatively confident about the vehicles but still have some reservations. The KPMG study, "Self Driving Cars: Are We Ready?", found good awareness of the moron-less motors, and found that Google and Nissan are the most obvious examples of developers.

In May, Google announced it was building 100 self-driving prototype cars with no steering wheel, accelerator or brake. Google said that the firm dreams of totally autonomous vehicles that "shoulder the entire burden of driving" and suggested that this will benefit old people, shoppers and drunks. µ


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