First trials to begin in six months
Driverless cars will be on British roads in six months time as ministers change the law to allow trials of google-style vehicles. The Government will allow the first trials of computer-controlled cars to start in January, as part of a move to update the law to allow driverless cars on UK roads, even though ministers have previously admitted that the current Highway Code and rules of the road are inadequate for the new generation of vehicles which pilot themselves. Ministers will look at current road regulations to ensure there is an appropriate way to testing driverless cars.
Last month Google unveiled its computerised ‘hands-free’ self-driving bubble car, which has no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals. Instead, it has buttons for start, pull over and emergency stop and a computer screen showing the planned route.
Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver at all. Business Secretary Vince Cable said 'the excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects. Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.’ He also announced that UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10million competition to host a driverless cars trial and up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year. Each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.
Transport Minister Claire Perry said '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 fulfill this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads.'
Driverless cars are already on the roads in the US but only in certain states and if someone sits in the drivers seat. Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles, says he believes driverless vehicles are the "cars of the future". Nevada changed its laws to allow self-driven cars. The long-term plan is to license members of the public to drive such cars. Google's car has been issued with a red licence plate to make it recognisable. The plate features an infinity sign next to the number 001. Google’s self driving car video shows a blind man in the driver’s seat, he never has to touch the steering wheel; the car relies on radar sensors, GPS satellite navigation, cameras, lasers, and a collection of data taken from manually driven cars to navigate the roads.