Government Gives Driverless Cars the Green Light

Saturday, 09 August 2014

Vince Cable recently revealed the government's plans to fast track the testing of driverless cars on UK roads from as early as January next year.

UK law currently prohibits cars from operating on the road without a licensed driver. Even in semi-autonomous vehicles, which use cruise control and cameras to curb speed and keep cars in lane, drivers must keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

However, The Department for Transport will now review these laws to enable the testing of both fully autonomous cars which operate without a driver, as well as those which allow a driver to assume control at any point.

According to Transport Minister Claire Perry, "Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network – they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2. We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfil this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads."

In addition to the legal review, which should be completed by the end of this year, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, working in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, have invested £10m in collaborative projects to research how driverless cars can be integrated into everyday life.

The fund will be distributed between up to three UK cities, and winning projects will have worked in close partnership with industry experts such as technology developers and car manufacturers. One of the front runners for the investment is Warwickshire based MIRA, a company with a history in developing autonomous vehicle technology for the military.

MIRA's Chief Commercial and Technical Officer Dr Geoff Davis welcomed the announcement, stating that the firm's 10 years of experience developing "driverless car solutions" has meant that they "are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars."

While Cable's announcement certainly brings driverless tech one step closer to reality, there's still a lot to resolve before they become a regular feature on Britain's roads.

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-fast-tracks-driverless-cars

2. www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/30/driverless-cars-british-roads-next-year-vince-cable

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