The dream of fully autonomous cars may promise a less stressful commute, reduced congestion and hopefully improve air quality too, but obtaining regulatory approval to allow self-driving cars on public roads is a hurdle that must be overcome before robotic cars become commonplace.
Luckily for self-driving car fans in the UK, the island nation has become the latest in a growing list of countries where semi or fully autonomous cars are welcome on the public highway.
Announced yesterday by UK Buisness Secretary Vince Cable, two new regulatory measures will legally allow self-driving technology to be developed and tested on public roads from January 2015. The measures not only allow for the development and testing of conventional cars with autopilot or self-driving features, but will also pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles where there are no conventional driving controls fitted.
Under the new scheme, the UK Government says it has set aside £10 million in funding to help up to three cities around the UK host driverless car trials. Carried out in collaboration with local businesses and research organisations, the test programs will start in January next year and last between 18 and 36 months.
“The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as a pioneer in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects,” said Vince 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.”
In addition to announcing the series of self-driving test programs throughout the UK, Mr. Cable said that a new Governmental review had been launched to look at the impact of self-driving technology on road law.
The review will look at how autonomous vehicles can be designed with current road regulations in mind, as well as the licensing, liability and insurance questions raised by having cars piloted by computers — rather than humans — on the road. The review is expected to be published by the end of 2014, just before the first self-driving trials start in January 2015.
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