The first driverless cars will be in full use on UK roads by 2021, revolutionising the lives of many elderly and disabled people, the Transport Secretary has claimed.
Chris Grayling told the Association of British Insurers (ABI) he was “determined” the UK should be at “the forefront of this revolution”, which would provide people who could not drive with a new sense of freedom.
“The potential benefits of these new technologies for human mobility and wider society are tremendously exciting,” he said.
“There are many people who cannot drive today, who cannot travel on our roads today, who will be able to take to the roads in future.
“The elderly, people with disabilities, who cannot drive today are going to discover a new sense of freedom and opportunity and independence.”
Driverless, self-driving or autonomous cars are all capable of navigating roads free from human intervention thanks to advanced control systems which work in conjunction with lasers, radars and cameras.
Currently, no car is allowed to drive on public roads without a human to grab the wheel and take control at any time.
US companies Google and Tesla have been leading the charge towards autonomous vehicles, while Apple confirmed it was working on its own driverless systems earlier this year. Ride hailing app Uber is working towards its own fleet of driverless vehicles, while traditional automakers Ford, BMW and Audi are working on their own.
There has long been confusion over who would bear the responsibility for an accident involving a driverless car. The government recently outlined how owners of future commercial driverless vehicles will be required to take out a dual insurance policy, covering scenarios when the human driver and car’s driving software are in control respectively.
The ABI also announced a framework of classification for automated cars to help the public learn the difference between the new vehicles and normal cars. Specifications include the car’s ability to comply with UK traffic law and the Highway Code, respond appropriately in an emergency and record and report which systems were in use at the time of an accident.
A “cluster of excellence” will be created along the M40 corridor to develop driverless car technology using existing testing centres in Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London.