Driverless cars to hit public UK roads by 2015

The Department for Transport in the UK has promised to have driverless cars on public roads by as early as January 2015, it has been revealed.

These vehicles are currently only permitted on private roads, but the UK government has been planning to bring the cars to public areas for a number of years.

The government is hoping to push technological advances to become a global leader in this area.

The Department for Transport previously hoped to trial the unmanned vehicles on public roads last year, with a prize fund of 10m for the town or city that will become the testing ground.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced this funding, which comes from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Department for Transport (DfT), and is governed by the Technology Strategy Board. Various issues surrounding the technology are also to be reviewed, with a report due by the end of 2014.

Other countries have been faster to adopt autonomous cars, with the US, Sweden and Japan all further along with their plans.

There are various barriers to the widespread growth of self-driving vehicles on public roads, however, including concerns over insurance, safety and other legal issues.

Various organisations have spoken out against the prospect of driverless cars, with the FBI warning that the vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.

"Autonomy... will make mobility more efficient, but will also open up greater possibilities for dual-use applications and ways for a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon tha[n] it is today."

Google recently hit the news with plans to make their own driverless cars, sporting one button to stop or go in place of standard controls. This technology has thus far been used in cars made by Toyota, Audi and Lexus, with other companies planning to do the same.

Speaking during a Q&A at the KV CEO Summit at the start of July, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said of their plans: "I'm very excited about the technology that we're building, but it's still in its early stages. I think eventually, in the future, there might be multiple partners or companies that we work with that some of them can be manufacturers and some might be service providers."

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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