Driverless cars will be permitted on British roads for testing from January 2015, when 3 cities will begin hosting trials of the new technology.
The trials will last between 18 months and 3 years. Meanwhile, the U.K. government will also review the current rules of the road to see what might need to change as autonomous vehicles are introduced. This review will examine both fully driverless cars and those that can still be taken over by a human driver.
“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than 6 months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” Business Secretary Vince Cable said in a statement.
Many car manufacturers and research organizations are working on the development of autonomous cars, including familiar names like Google, Tesla, Volvo, Nissan, Nokia and Mercedes-Benz. Tests of driverless vehicles on public roads are already taking place in Japan and in the U.S. states of California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada. Trials on Swedish roads will begin in 2017.
The shift towards vehicle automation is largely about energy efficiency and safety. As the vision goes, vehicles will ultimately be able to move down major thoroughfares in wirelessly connected swarms, with individual cars breaking off as needed. There would also be major benefits for the visually-impaired and others who have difficulty driving.