The British government is rehashing its road laws in preparation for a new generation of driverless cars. Google unveiled plans to construct a fleet of self-driving vehicles in May, and hopes to have them on the road as early as September.
The UK government says it wants to become a world leader in the development of driverless vehicles, moving to modify road regulations to incorporate the next-generation cars. Although Google is currently at the forefront with 100 self-driving machines in the pipeline, British Science Minister David Willetts says the UK is not far behind.
“We are one of the world leaders in this,” Willetts told the Daily Mail, “there is technology and it’s British technology. The technology is being developed at Oxford as we speak.”
Willetts said he was currently in negotiations with the Department of Transport over rewrites in the Highway Code — the UK road manual — to make way for the vehicles. He wants to make sure “there is a clear and appropriate regime for the testing of driverless cars that supports the world’s car companies to come and test them here.”
The UK government announced last year that it wants to make Britain a center for driverless vehicles. To encourage regional development, the government has also created a $12 million prize fund to encourage a town or city to modify its infrastructure for the cars.
“Driverless cars have the potential to transform our roads and create opportunities for UK companies to develop new technology and create economic growth. We need to ensure their use on UK roads is safe and that the wider public benefit,” said the Department of Transport.
Google revealed its plans to build 100 driverless cars in May. Although the end design aims to only have an on-and-off button, the prototypes that are being developed with a steering wheel and pedals to comply with California road laws. Google’s cars will have a top speed of 25mph.
The Californian Department of Motor Vehicles is already drawing up regulations for the cars.
The DMV had thought that the reality was several years away, so it would have time to perfect the rules. That clock just sped up, said the head of the DMV’s driverless car program, Bernard Soriano.
“Because of what is potentially out there soon, we need to make sure that the regulations are in place that would keep the public safe but would not impede progress,” Soriano added.
Reprinted with permission.