Driverless carDriverless cars have undergone their first UK road trials recently as the Government considers changes to legislation, allowing the vehicles to be used by the public. This is an early step in the process of automation of the UK driving industry which could see all drivers become passengers by 2030.

This is the first time the safety of driverless cars has been tested on UK roads. Ministers were present to watch self-driving passenger shuttles from the Gateway scheme in action in Greenwich, London. Simultaneously, Lutz Pathfinder driverless cars operated in public areas in Milton Keynes and Coventry whilst the BAE Wildcat was put through its paces in Bristol.

Greenwich residents were invited by the Gateway scheme to use a driverless car simulator to determine how passengers react to the experience. Gateway is an initiative led by the Transport Research Laboratory in association with General Motors, the AA and RAC.

Using 22 sensors, laser imaging and radar to create a virtual world – the Lutz Pathfinders will be driving through the pedestrianised streets of Milton Keynes. These landmarks tests have been accommodated by a Government review which revealed there is no legal barrier preventing the testing of automated vehicles on public roads.

The technology is being spearheaded by Google, and the UK Government (having pledged £19m funding towards the technology) is hoping that the UK can become a world-leader in the driverless cars. With a rich heritage in car production, the Government sees the UK as the natural home for the new technology.

Claire Perry, the Transport Minister, enthused: “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.”

Google has been testing its own driverless model around their headquarters in California for a number of years, and has previously stated that the technology could be mainstream and road-safe by 2020. Computer giants Apple and taxi firm Uber are both believed to also be developing their own driverless car technologies.

Audi’s first foray into driverless car technology was deemed a success when it recently drove itself from San Francisco to Las Vegas – a distance of more than 500 miles – without incident. The car was travelling to the International CES Technology show, where BMW also demonstrated a self-driving valet car which can be summoned by a smartwatch.

For driverless cars to become mainstream in the UK, alterations to MOT testing and a revision of the Highway Code are necessary. Summer 2017 is the earliest that domestic regulations will be reviewed and amended to accommodate new technologies.

Although the driverless cars currently being tested are capable of self-operation – they will require a fully-qualified driver to be present to take control if necessary. Additionally, the cars will not be capable of self-maintaining, this will remain the responsibility of the experts – you.

To learn more about how Prestone innovate with products to help cars now and in the future, visit the Prestone homepage.

Image courtesy of Rex Features

Written by Kat Morris