UK urged to prepare for driverless cars


MPs have demanded a new motoring strategy be launched to match the growing momentum behind driverless vehicles and automotive technology.

Members of the transport committee today called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to outline how the introduction of high-tech vehicles would affect the liability and training of drivers on UK roads.

Prototype driverless car trials are underway in four English cities, with the support of £19m of Government funding. International efforts on autonomous vehicles are currently being led by Google, which has unveiled plans to see these cars on the road within five years.

Speaking to Transport-Network last month, Tim Armitage of Arup – which is currently leading on two autonomous pilots – predicted that ‘while I personally think there will always be a certain section of the public that will want to drive, all road vehicles could be autonomous in the next 10 years’.

Transport committee chair, Louise Ellman, has now raised pressure on the DfT to ‘positively engage’ in setting European standards on driverless products.

‘Motoring is being transformed by new materials, new fuels and information technology. The Government must do more to ensure that people and businesses in the UK benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,’ she said.

‘The public need to be sure that new types of vehicles are safe to travel on our roads. The Government must do more to prepare for a transition period where manual, semi-autonomous and driverless vehicles will share UK roads.

‘Transport ministers must explain how different types of vehicles will be certified and tested, how drivers will be trained and how driving standards will be updated, monitored and enforced.’

A DfT spokesman said: ‘Public safety is our first priority as we adapt to advances in motoring technology. We have a comprehensive approach to ensure the UK is at the cutting edge of developments.

‘We are working closely with industry to progress driverless car technology, demonstrated by our recent announcement that the UK is uniquely positioned to lead the way in safely testing these vehicles on public roads.

‘Our £15bn road investment strategy includes a major expansion of smart motorway technology to improve capacity, ease congestion and improve road safety.’

AA president Edmund King added: ‘The report rightly points to potential problems of a transition period on the roads.

‘There is a potential nightmare scenario whereby robotic driverless cars are fighting for space with cars with humans behind the wheel and indeed semi-autonomous cars with no-one totally in control.

‘We really need a safe vision for the future whereby all vehicles and all road users can coexist in harmony.

‘This vision will entail government, manufacturers, insurers and indeed drivers agreeing the way ahead.’


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