The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads in trials from January next year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced measures today that give the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.

UK cities can now bid for a share of a GBP10m competition to host a driverless cars trial. The UK Government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location.

Up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year - and each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.

Ministers have also launched a review to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.

Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new plan at a research facility belonging to Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands.

"Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society," he said.

David Raistrick, UK Automotive leader at Deloitte, said today's announcement was extremely positive. "The Government's announcement this morning is extremely positive news, indicating that the UK is intent at being a leader in this new technology. The UK has become known for being at the leading edge of technological developments and this will enable the automotive sector to continue its renaissance.

"Whilst the public has not yet embraced the concept of autonomous cars trundling around Britain's roads, the reality is that, within a decade, technology advancements will allow driverless cars to become the norm. Today's barriers to adoption largely came from UK legislation preventing driverless cars, coupled with the price entry point for this new technology. The Government's announcement will remove some of these hurdles, whilst also encouraging the UK to become an early adopter. I would expect that as the technology advances, the prices will start to fall."

Neil Marshall, automotive research analyst at Deloitte, added: "The only other major economy to have already allowed such a trial is the United States where driverless vehicles are allowed in three states (California, Nevada and Florida) and have proven the technology to be both stable and safe. Sweden is proposing a large trial, with Japan having last year carrying out a limited test on their public roads. I believe it is strategically important for the UK to also be an early adopter in order to help protect our global involvement in this important sector."

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UK GOVERNMENT FAST TRACKS DRIVERLESS CARS

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced two new measures today that give the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.

UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10m competition to host a driverless cars trial. The Government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location.

Up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year – and each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.

Ministers have also launched a review to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.

Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver.

Speaking at vehicle engineering consultancy, test and research facility MIRA, where he tested a driverless car with the Science Minister Greg Clark, Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects. Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.

“Through the Government’s industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said:

“Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network – they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2. We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfil this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads.”

Science Minister Greg Clark said:

“Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology. It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”

Iain Gray CEO of the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, said:

“This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society.

“The ability to test driverless cars at scale, when married to the UK’s unique strengths in transport technologies and urban planning, will also attract further investment, helping to establish new design and manufacturing supply chains, driving forward UK economic growth.”

The driverless cars competition is being funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport, in partnership with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. Successful projects must be business-led and need to demonstrate close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, supply chain companies and manufacturers.

MIRA’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer Dr Geoff Davis said:

“We welcome the announcement made by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable today at our site in encouraging further advancements and UK engineering excellence. Our 10 years of experience developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defence and security as well as cooperative systems in road transport applications means we are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars.”

Notes to editors

1. The deadline for applications for the driverless cars competition is noon on 1 October 2014. The driverless cars trial will last between 18 and 36 months and will begin in January 2015.

2. For more information or to apply for the competition please read the Guidance for Applicant booklet by visiting  www.innovateuk.org.

3. To apply for the competition you must first register with the TSB by phoning 0300 321 4357 or visiting www.innovateuk,org.

4. Regulatory areas the review will look at include the need for vehicles to comply with construction and safety regulations, traffic laws and relevant aspects of the Highway Code. The review will also look at licensing, liability and insurance and driverless regulations being put in place in other countries. The results of the review will be published at the end of 2014.

Original source: UK BIS