Green light for driverless car trials

February 11 2015  

Green light for driverless car trials

Testing of driverless cars on public roads was given the go ahead from Government this morning. Business Secretary Vince Cable joined Transport Minister Claire Perry in announcing the news in Greenwich, one of four locations where autonomous vehicle trials will take place.

A code of practice for on-road trials will be published by Government this spring and the first driverless car tests are expected on the roads by the summer. This follows a six month Department for Transport review considering the best and safest ways to trial vehicles that can take control away from a driver, as well as fully automated vehicles.

In Greenwich a fully autonomous ‘Meridian shuttle’ was in action this morning, off of the public highway.

“Driverless cars are the future and I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development,” Ms Perry said. “These are still early days but this is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”

Dr Cable added: “The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry (to the tune of £19M) will help to ensure we are world leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a £900Bn industry by 2025.”

CIHT director of policy & technical affairs Andrew Hugill said: "CIHT welcomes the innovation and the considerable benefits that autonomous vehicles can bring. We believe that empahsis should be given to the impact they will have on the maintenance and safety of our infrastructure networks as well as the current focus on the vehicles themselves."

Legal practice Osborne Clarke's partner Simon Spooner said: "This is great news for all of us who have been involved in the development of driverless cars. Some people said that this day would never come – but here we are looking at and testing the specifics of what it means in the real world in terms of insurance, reducing congestion, personal liabilities and lower accident rates. The Government has really put the UK ahead of many economies by doing this."

Transport Planning Society chair Nick Richardson FCIHT cautiously welcomed the trials of driverless cars, but said that safety and driver behavioural issues need to be carefully considered. “This is an interesting concept to take forward, but human nature may not be as embracing of new technology as the innovators might like to think.

“I would hope there is a staged approach to the introduction of driverless cars,” he added. “It would be easy to get carried away and over enthusiastic about them, but in truth no one knows what the future holds. We just have to see how it goes.”

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