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Driverless cars hit the fast track

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 12:09
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On public roads by 2015

The government today announced the go-ahead for driverless cars to legally be on the road by 2015.

Relevant laws have already been passed in parts of Europe, with France and Sweden making serious moves to prepare for driverless cars over the next few years. Fearful of falling behind the rest of the world, the UK is following suit.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has today announced a framework that will allow the vehicles – already being tested by the likes of Google and BMW – to move away from the public roads they’re currently bound to and onto public roads.

Science Minister Greg Clark said: “Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology. It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”

With the news comes the fact that civil servants have been tasked with reviewing road regulations by the end of the year, to ensure the Highway Code covers the use of driverless cars. The BBC has reported that in particular this will cover emergency situations such as when drivers would need to quickly regain control of the car, and scenarios where there is no driver.

In addition, it was also announced that a national competition would be held that gives cities the chance to provide a test ground where driverless car trials can be carried out. These tests are expected to run for 18 to 36 months, and successful cities will receive £10m in funding to cover the costs.

Iain Gray CEO of the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, said: “This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society.”

The announcement comes following our recent story showing that half of British adults are uncomfortable with driverless cars.

Do you think driverless vehicles have a place in the fleet industry? Would they make your drivers jobs easier or would the lack of control also concern you? Let us know in the comments below.

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