Driverless car trials given green light by Government
11 February 2015
Author: Daniel Puddicombe
The Meridian shuttle, which will be used during the Greenwich trials
The Government has given the green light for testing driverless cars on public roads in the UK from today. (11 February)
Over the last six months, the Department for Transport carried out a review to consider the safest ways to trial driverless vehicles, the implications of testing driverless cars and the legal aspect of the tests.
The review also revealed changes to The Highway Code and the MoT testing procedure will need updating to accommodate the autonomous vehicles.
The DfT will publish a code of practice in the spring that will provide the industry with a framework to help create more advanced versions of the current models, with a full review of the legislation in the summer of 2017.
"I want the UK to be open-minded and embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment," said Claire Perry, transport minister. "The breadth of public and private sector involvement in the Gateway project [the Greenwich trial] is testament to the potential of driverless cars and how much we stand to gain from testing them further," said Perry.
The chancellor, George Osborne confirmed in November's autumn statement that the four cities chosen to host the £19 million Government-funded trials - dubbed Autodrive - would be Coventry, Milton Keynes, Bristol and London's borough of Greenwich.
The combined Milton Keynes and Coventry project will run alongside London's Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project and Bristol's Venturer trial.
The Greenwich trials will start today (11 February) and will aim to:
- Demonstrate automated transport systems in a range of environments
- Explore the legal and technical changes required to introduce automated vehicles
- Explore the reactions of both pedestrians, drivers and other road users to automated vehicles
The Coventry part of UK Autodrive will specifically employ the type of passenger cars business drivers will use in the future with increasing levels of autonomy, while Milton Keynes will be trialling autonomous pods (vehicles without a driver's steering wheel or pedals) which will operate in the city's pedestrianised areas.
Tim Armitage, UK Autodrive project director, said: "The UK Autodrive consortium brings together world-class expertise that will help the UK position itself as a leader in the development and adoption of autonomous driving technologies.
"As well as developing and testing the in-car, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure technologies that will be required to drive cars autonomously on our roads in the future, the project will also place great emphasis on the role and perceptions of drivers, pedestrians and other road users."
The trials will influence how autonomous vehicle technology is introduced into the UK when they end in three years' time and will help steer policy across issues such as insurance and culpability.