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Driverless Car Trials Prompt Legislation Rethink In The UK

By raccars Published

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As four UK cities prepare to host trials of driverless cars, the government is working on new legislation to make sure Britain is ready for autonomous vehicles. Ministers have already admitted that a new series of rules will need to be introduced to the Highway Code to encompass the new culture of autonomous driving.

The new rules will cover issues such as making sure that the human occupying the driver's seat will wear a seatbelt and take responsibility for any road traffic offences that occur under their watch, such as speeding fines. The companies conducting the upcoming driverless car trials in the UK are studying how long the putative 'drivers' can remain alert without having any driving tasks to occupy them.

The Autodriver consortium, led by Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and various universities and engineering firms, won the contract for the first autonomous driving trials in the UK. They will see a Range Rover piloting itself around Coventry and Milton Keynes in the next few weeks, along with trials of driverless pods in pedestrianised areas of Milton Keynes. Further projects will be taking place in Bristol and Greenwich, South East London. Over the 18-36 month test period, the teams leading the studies hope to learn much about how autonomous cars will perform in the real world and how they are likely to be used by those buying them. The Autodrive project will also be investigating how to develop infrastructure that will co-operate with the driverless cars and, ideally, make our roads safer. General Motors, the RAC and the AA are all working with the consortium on the project.

In Bristol, a consortium called Venturer will be exploring the insurance implications of autonomous driving and how the general public receives the idea. Furthermore, the city's challenging network of hills and winding roads will present a unique opportunity to test the capability of autonomous cars in more difficult terrain and busy roads. Greenwich's Gateway scheme will focus on the implications for public transport with autonomous electric shuttle buses and valet parking.

The information gathered by the teams should help with the integration of driverless cars on UK roads, which is expected to result in improvements to congestion, better air quality and the more efficient and safer use of roads. The government has contributed £10 million in funding to the project already and recently announced a £9 million top up investment, hoping to make the UK an international leader in the field of automotive technology and autonomous driving.

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