UK government launches driverless vehicle trials

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At an event in London today (February 11), the UK’s testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs) began in earnest, with the unveiling of the driverless pod that will be tested in public pedestrianized areas in Milton Keynes (pictured left) and an announcement of the publication of a regulatory review into the use of AVs on the country’s roads. The report, ‘The Pathway to Driverless Cars: A detailed review of regulations for automated vehicle technologies’, confirms that the UK’s regulatory environment now sets it apart as a prime location for developing AV technology, which has the potential to reduce accidents and help make traffic flow more smoothly. The government is now set to introduce a code of practice that will provide industry with the framework it needs to trial cars in real-life roadway scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist. The code of practice is scheduled for publication in the spring, with the first driverless cars expected to be tested on public roads by the summer.  

Speaking at the event, UK transport minister, Claire Perry, said, “Driverless cars are the future. 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. These are still early days, but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”

UK business secretary, Vince Cable, added, “The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology; from the all-electric cars built in Sunderland, to the Formula 1 expertise in the Midlands. It’s important for jobs, growth and society that we keep at the forefront of innovation, that’s why I launched a competition to research and develop driverless cars. The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world-leaders in this field, and able to benefit from what is expected to be a £900 billion (US$1.3 trillion) industry by 2025. The government’s industrial strategy is backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength; we are giving business the confidence to invest over the long term and developing cutting-edge technology that will create high skilled jobs.”

The ministers witnessed the first official trials of the fully autonomous Meridian shuttle (pictured above) in Greenwich. They were also shown other AVs involved in the trials, including a Wildcat vehicle that is the result of years of advanced research and development by BAE Systems and will be tested in Bristol.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).