LONDON Oct 11 A driverless vehicle carrying
passengers will take to Britain's public roads for the first
time on Tuesday, as part of trials aimed at paving the way for
autonomous cars to hit the highways by the end of the decade.
The government is encouraging technology companies,
carmakers and start-ups to develop and test their autonomous
driving technologies in Britain, aiming to build an industry to
serve a worldwide market which it forecasts could be worth
around 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.
Earlier this year, it launched a consultation on changes to
insurance rules and motoring regulations to allow driverless
cars to be used by 2020 and said it would allow such vehicles to
be tested on motorways from next year.
A pod - like a small two-seater car - developed by a company
spun out from Oxford University will be tested in the southern
English town of Milton Keynes on Tuesday, with organisers hoping
the trials will feed vital information on how the vehicle
interacts with pedestrians and other road-users.
"Today's first public trials of driverless vehicles in our
towns is a ground-breaking moment," Britain's business minister
Greg Clark said.
"The global market for autonomous vehicles present huge
opportunities for our automotive and technology firms and the
research that underpins the technology and software will have
applications way beyond autonomous vehicles," he said.
The pod will operate fully without human control, using data
from cameras and radars to move around pedestrianised areas. It
was made by Oxford University spin-out Oxbotica, with software
developed by the university's Oxford Robotics Institute.
Carmakers Jaguar Land Rover and Ford are
both part of driverless car projects in Britain, as major
carmakers seek to head off the challenge from technology firms
such as Alphabet Inc's Google, which is also
developing autonomous vehicles.
But all parties still need to overcome technological and
legal obstacles including determining who would be responsible
in the event of an accident, with recent accidents involving
driving assistance systems raising safety concerns.
Organisers in Milton Keynes ran a number of exercises ahead
of the trial including mapping the town and conducting safety
planning with the local council ahead of Tuesday's trial.
The city, around 45 miles (70 km) north of London, was
selected alongside three other locations for autonomous
technology projects partly due to its wide pavements and cycle
Britain is aiming to be more flexible in its approach to
driverless testing than some other major economies, with Germany
saying it will require black boxes to be fitted in such vehicles
and automakers having to navigate different rules across U.S.
($1 = 0.8042 pounds)
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Mark Potter)