Driverless Cars Will Hit UK Public Roads by January 2015

By Gerald Lynch on at
The government has today revealed plans to allow driverless cars to be tested out on public UK roads as early as January of 2015.

Currently, driverless cars are only permitted to be used on private roads, but with the government looking to prove that the UK too can be a leader in autonomous vehicle research alongside the US, it's set to expand that allowance vastly. The Department for Transport had initially pledged to allow self-driving cars onto public roads by the end of last year, pledging £10m in investment to any town that would offer itself up as a testbed for driverless vehicles. Though it missed that initial target, today's announcement shows driverless research is still a key part of the department's future plans.

Despite this fast-tracking of public road tests, the UK is already falling behind other nations in the driverless race. Google's driverless cars have already racked up 300,000 miles out on Californian roads, Nissan tested a driverless highway test in Japan back in 2013, and Sweden is planning on allowing 1,000 Volvo autonomous cars onto its roads by 2017.

One of the key concerns currently holding back wider driverless testing is insurance factors. Without a driver behind the wheel, who claims responsibility for any accident that may occur? Is the passenger liable, the automative manufacturer, or the company providing the navigation software? As well as the technological hurdles that need to be cleared before driverless cars become the norm, these legal conundrums will need to be ironed out too. [BBC]