​Driverless cars to arrive on UK roads from January


Self-driving car

Driverless cars are set to appear on UK roads from the start of 2015. This follows a government announcement that self-driving cars will be allowed onto public roads from January onwards.

The government has invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of driverless car tech, while ministers have requested a review of road regulations to provide new guidelines on driverless machines by the end of the year. Cities have until October to declare their interest in 18-36 month tests of autonomous machines, with a £10m fund set up to cover their costs.

Speaking at a research facility in the Midlands, Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC: "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."

However, concerns have been raised about legal and insurance issues by UK engineers, which has so far restricted self-driving car testing to private roads. Similarly Department for Transport plans to trial driverless cars on UK roads by the end of 2013 never came to fruition.

Other countries have already tested driverless cars extensively on public roads however. Three US states have approved testing and a driverless car created by Google has covered over 300,000 miles on public roads in California alone. On-road testing also took place in Japan in 2013 while the Swedish city of Gothenburg has approved testing of 1,000 driverless Volvos. A number of major car companies have been developing their own driverless cars, as has Chinese search engine, Baidu.

Despite the technology coming on in leaps and bounds however, there is a lot of work needed to win over British drivers. Research from Churchill Car Insurance has found that 56 per cent of UK adults would not buy a driverless car. A quarter of respondents said they doubted the safety of autonomous vehicles, with 60 per cent being concerned that the car's electronics could be unreliable.

Even the FBI has raised concerns – in this case over how driverless cars could be used as weapons, writes the BBC. The US crime fighting organisation has predicted that autonomous vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car".