The U.K. Begins Testing Driverless Cars On Public Roads

The British government is spending $29 million on autonomous car tests.

Move over, Mountain View: The U.K. wants to become a world leader for driverless cars, according to a new review of regulations published today.


Titled “The Pathway to Driverless Cars,” the report describes how the British government is currently considering legal changes to allow autonomous vehicles to be used by the public. These modifications will be unveiled by the summer of 2017.

For now, the U.K. is officially testing driverless cars on public roads. These vehicles will include self-driving passenger shuttles in London, autonomous LUTZ “pods” in the cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry, and a modified military jeep in Bristol. The vehicles use panoramic cameras, laser imaging, and a variety of other sensors to intelligently maneuver around public roads.

To fund the trials, the U.K. government is shelling out £19 million ($29 million), which it hopes will positively impact British manufacturing.

“Driverless cars are the future,” said transport minister Claire Perry. “I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand-new route for global investment.”

The U.K. is, of course, far from the only country to embrace driverless cars. Google first announced the technology in the U.S. in the fall of 2010, by which time its “self-piloting” vehicles had already logged a total of 140,000 miles in the real world—a number that has since swept past 300,000. However, 15 U.S. states have rejected bills related to driverless vehicles, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a preliminary statement advising states against allowing members of the public to use self-driving vehicles at this time.

Perhaps the U.K. government is hoping that while the U.S. is divided over the topic of driverless cars, it will be able to catch up and maybe even overtake the U.S. on adoption. While that may be a tall order, there’s no doubt that the colder, wetter climes of the United Kingdom have proven tempting to tech companies as of late. Recently, Amazon began testing its planned delivery drones in the U.K. after running into regulatory problems with the Federal Aviation Administration.


[via BBC]