Autonomous Cars To Be Legally Tested in the UK

Lutz Pathfinder autonomous pod 1 photo
Photo: screenshot from video
While the US struggles with special laws in each state to allow autonomous car testing on public roads, the UK government believes there’s no need for that much hassle if a qualified driver is behind the wheel at all times.
The Government stated that there’s no legal barrier to self driving cars being tested on public streets as long as there’s a skilled test driver is ready to take control at all times.

Banning or creating special rules for this kind of activities would be like creating special rules for cars that are already able to handle themselves on the highway using the lane-keeping and active cruise control systems.

“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,” said UK transport minister Claire Perry.

Opening up new niches

Some of the first companies to benefit from the announcement is the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA). Their on-road tests will feature real-world evaluation of passenger cars with increasing levels of autonomy. The company is also interested in the development and evaluation of lightweight, fully-autonomous self-driving pods for pedestrianized areas.

“The vehicle rental and leasing industry has the youngest fleet on UK roads and prides itself on running the safest, most cost-efficient, low-emission vehicles. This means they will be early adopters of and investors in autonomous vehicle technology,” said BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney.

The UK sounds to be the new Mecca of autonomous car testing, but before you get to excited, don’t forget we’re still in the early days of this technology. Insurance companies will have to adapt, MOT testing needs changing, the Highway Code and even after all these hurdles we still have to determine if at least one of the passengers needs to have a driving license.
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