UK Lets Loose Driverless Cars Onto Public Roads

By January 2015, your morning commute might be slightly more intriguing, when being carved up by an automotive with no driver. The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be legal on UK roads from 2015.

It might seem like a story from a futuristic, 80s, sci-fi novel; but driverless cars are fast becoming a reality. It’s not our usual car brands that are dominating the chatter either. Google is the current ‘brand to beat’ in the autonomous car battle; with a dedicated wheel-less car expected to be on the market by 2020.

Creating the first driverless car in Nevada recently, there hasn’t been a surge in uptake for such vehicles. States such as California have approved their use in the USA – but now the UK wants to embrace the trend by 2015 too.

The UK government is also inviting cities to compete in a competition to host tech trials for autonomous cars, to start in 2015. Succesful cities would receive £10 million in funding for research – all forms of driverless car will be tested, including fully autonomous cars with no driver, and self-driving models that can relinquish control to a human pilot.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, revealed he details whilst on a visit to MIRA; a UK automotive engineering firm:

“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,”

Nissan has carried out tests in Japan during 2013, experimenting on public roads, and Sweden is set to begin trials in 2017.

Sceptics of driverless cars criticise their uses on public roads. Many of them question their safety and functionality. The term ‘driverless car’ covers many aspects, including autonomous cruise control, steering, accelerating and parking. We’ve slowly seen each of these technologies introduced into the market, but not in a complete package.

Driverless cars are developing at enormous rates, with ‘computer vision’ technology allowing 360-degree analytical views and light detection to measure distances; we are on an upwards journey. Nevertheless, a truly autonomous car, which doesn’t require any driver input, is still a couple of years away. With firms such as Nissan, Google and Volvo all innovating in a new ‘car race’ – we will get there eventually.

It’s up to the politicians to decide on how we implement driverless cars, the safety precautions and practical regulations. Many questions remain unanswered. Would you need a driving license? Couldn’t children operate a driverless car? Who is at fault if it crashes?

Plus, there is always the fun of climbing into a piece of metal and travelling at 70MPH down a motorway, with absolutely no control…

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