Only a few weeks after Google unveiled its first set of self-driving cars, transport ministers in the UK have begun to draw up new legislation to allow driverless vehicles onto Britain’s highways.  The current Highway Code is somewhat antiquated and therefore inadequate for coping with this new type of technology.  Google are not alone in the race for the autonomous vehicles, as David Willetts explained.

The Science minister said, “There is British technology, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Google technology…But whereas the Google car, they have notched up more miles, so we have got to ensure that the British has its own opportunity to get tested in a wider range of environments and that’s what we are working on with the department for transport…The technology is being developed at Oxford as we speak,” said Mr Willets, referring to work on autonomous vehicles being conducted by Oxford University’s department of engineering science.  A recent amendment to the United Nations’ 1968 Convention on Road Traffic has paved the way for more widespread use of driverless vehicles, allowing cars to control themselves as long as the system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver”.

Driverless Cars

This is very similar to regulations in the US, covering Google’s vehicles. Even though the self-driving prototypes should “shoulder the entire burden of driving” by offering the user only start and stop buttons, this layout is currently only legal within the company’s private Mountain View headquarters area.

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[Image via fastcompany]