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Driverless car trials begin across UK

The scope for testing driverless cars that have the potential to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, accidents and makie traffic flow more smoothly has been limited, but industry has now been given the green light for testing the new technology on public roads.

To mark the launch, Business Secretary, Vince Cable and Transport Minister, Claire Perry will meet in Greenwich, home to one of the projects benefiting from £19 million government funding for driverless cars trials.

Along with Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry, the Greenwich project is building on the pioneering work begun last year by Oxford University in partnership with Nissan.

Transport Minister Claire Perry said: "Driverless cars are the future. I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.

"These are still early days but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology - from the electric cars built in Sunderland, to the formula 1 expertise in the Midlands.

The ministers will witness the first official trials of the fully autonomous Meridian shuttle in Greenwich and unveil a prototype of a driverless pod that will be tested in public areas in Milton Keynes.

Meridian Shuttle

They will also be shown other autonomous vehicles involved in the trials, including a BAE wildcat vehicle that is the result of years of advanced research and development by BAE systems and will be tested in Bristol.

BAE Wildcat

The Venturer consortium, which aims to investigate whether driverless cars can reduce congestion and make roads safer, is also running tests in Bristol including on the public reaction and legal implications.

In Milton Keynes, the Lutz Pathfinders will be travelling around pedestrianised streets. They uses 22 sensors including panoramic cameras, laser imaging, and radar to build a virtual image of the world around it.

LUTZ Pathfinder

Milton Keynes and Coventry are also hosting the UK Autodrive programme involving Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and the engineering consultancy Arup, among others.

However, according to the Institute of the Motor Industry, MPs are yet to grasp the impact of modern vehicle technology on the motor industry.

The comments came after a Dods Polling survey into MPs attitudes to driverless cars revealed a "general lack of knowledge amongst our legislators on the impact of autonomous vehicles."

The next step is for the government to introduce a code of practice which will provide industry with the framework they need to trial cars in real-life scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist.

This code of practice is scheduled for publication in spring 2015, with the first driverless cars supported by the prize fund expected to be tested on roads by the summer.

Department for Transport

Peter Thomas

Author:Peter Thomas
Date Updated:11th Feb 2015

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