Department for Transport to trial driverless cars

Car park

The Department for Transport (DfT) is set to review the capabilities of driverless car technology, although Transport Minister Claire Perry thinks the tech is a bit 'weird'.

Perry explained the concept of using tech-enabled driving has the potential to revolutionise transport, despite it feeling a bit sci-fi for some people.

She said: "I see a future where driverless buses provide better and more frequent services. A major component of rural transport is the cost of the driver - and so a truly driverless bus could transform rural public transport in the future."

The DfT will conduct its review to resolve any regulatory issues that may arise, but it could lead to the first driverless bus hitting UK streets and has great opportunities for commercial vehicles too.

Driver error accounts for more than 90 per cent of traffic incidents she explained and by removing the driver, it will hopefully result in fewer accidents in addition to cut costs, congestion and carbon emissions.

A find of 10 million has been earmarked for the study in collaboration with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Vince Cable explained the plans back in August, although this is the first time the DfT has commented on the issue.

"The department has recently concluded a feasibility study of platooning on the UK trunk road network using vehicles with partial automation, but with a driver in each vehicle. I recently approved the next phase of research and know that work will be getting underway in 2015."

Some driverless trials have already been conducted in the UK, including one that tests unmanned lorries. The trucks would move in formation and are all connected by Wi-Fi. There will be one driver in the front lorry and standby operators in the rest of the fleet that will ensure if anything goes wrong, they can take control.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.