Driverless Cars to Hit Public Roads by January in the UK

The Brits seem to be developing an inexplicable attraction for unusual vehicles. First, UK’s government plans to get Tesla Model S as their official car, and now they’re announcing the debut of self-driving cars on public roads by the beginning of next year.

Currently, driverless cars are allowed in the UK only on private roads, but things are about to change. Assuming that these cars enter mass production by the beginning of 2015, and that the UK knows something that the rest of the world doesn’t, such cars should be seen on public roads at that point in time.

There’s going to be some competition in this field, as Google is no longer the only search engine interested in making a self-driving car. Baidu, China’s most important search engine, expressed its interest in developing a highly autonomous car (mind you, not a driverless one!) that keeps humans in the equation, and the result shouldn’t take long to appear.

Last year, the Department for Transport announced that trials of self-driving cars should start on public roads by the end of 2013. In December, the Treasury got involved in this matter, as well, and suggested creating a plan so that a town or city would be awarded £10m to test these cars.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne are firm supporters of the legislation that will allow self-driving cars on public roads. Their wish is to make sure that “the UK is the right place to develop and test driverless cars.”

All this was hinted at when the Technology Strategy Board, an entity backed by the UK government, sought to establish test sites for robotics and autonomous systems (RAS). Even though the self-driving cars are part of these systems, the Board did not specifically mention them, thus leaving a bit of room for interpretations.

I’m happy to see the UK, Europe’s main tech hub, embracing such innovations. The support offered by politicians makes all this even more worth of applause. While not yet of manufacturer of driverless cars itself, the UK is open to this change that will affect all of us dramatically, someday. Hopefully, self-driving cars will put an end to road police, car crashes, driving schools and all that!

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