Starting next year, driverless cars will be allowed on public roads in the UK as ministers in the Kingdom open up roadways to experimental self-driving vehicles. The cars you see on the roads in the near-future may not have anyone (technically) at the wheel.
Driverless cars are one of those things that elicit either awe or fear in those who see them or hear about the idea. In the UK, as in the U.S., many are pensive about the idea of cars driving themselves on public streets cohabited by pedestrians and vehicles with drivers.
One group worried about UK driverless cars are insurers, who don’t know what to do about liabilities and the lack of legal precedents or code covering them when a driverless car becomes part of the equation. So far, at least with UK driverless cars, the answers are covered: the cars are experimental and the responsibility of the companies testing them. The industry, of course, will have to look beyond that eventually, says a report in Financial Times.
Legalities aside, though, with driverless cars hitting the streets of the UK, people may also be pensive. The initial allowance, however, is limited and motorists in most of the UK have little to worry about. The trials will last between one and a half to three years and will be limited to one to three UK cities. There, driverless cars will be tested in a government-coordinated study involving several automakers and vehicle types as well as several driverless car technologies. The government of the UK is putting up ten million pounds to be split between the cities chosen for the trials to be used as grants for public safety.
In the UK, driverless car technology and regulation has become a forefront issue as ministers look at how the nation can become more accommodating to the new technology, says the Belfast Telegraph.
Driverless cars themselves, of course, are not new. The idea of a robotic car driving itself around has been a matter of science fiction becoming fact for quite some time. The famous Google Cars are probably the most well-known, but most major automotive manufacturers are working on similar technology in the UK and elsewhere.
Speaking to the BBC, Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new UK driverless car plan. “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 said.
In the United States, the BBC also points out, several states have already given driverless cars the green light for testing, so the UK is not the first. Similarly, Sweden has allowed Volvo to test driverless cars as well.