The government has outlined plans to allow driverless cars on public roads in 2015, as major technology and car brands push self-driving technology.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced that the government will use two new measures to fast-track the process of bringing driverless cars to UK roads.
The first measure will involve the Treasury awarding a share of a £10m to three cities or town that will become testing grounds for autonomous cars. Plans to open this funding up were first made public in December last year.
The second measure will involve ministers setting up a review of the current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology. The review will also ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.
Transport minister Claire Perry acknowledged the potential driverless cars could have on the UK's transport network. "Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK's transport network. They could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2," explained Perry.
"We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfil this potential, which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads."
The Department for Transport had originally pledged to allow driverless cars to be trialled on public roads by the end of 2013. Currently, self-driving cars are limited to private roads.
Back in 2013 as part his National Infrastructure Plan, chancellor George Osborne declared he would ensure that there is a legislative and regulatory framework in place to signal to the major car companies that the UK is the right place to test and develop driverless cars.
While concerns over legal and insurance issues have limited the scope of testing, both major car and technology brands, along with groups of engineers and academics, have been experimenting with driverless cars.
One company fully supporting the drive to bring autonomous cars to the world's highways is Google. The search giant has already developed its own car with a stop-go button in place of a steering wheel and pedals. Its technology has also been used by other car brands including Audi, Lexus and Toyota.
Google also recently hired ex-Ford chief executive Alan Mulally, though it was not disclosed whether he will be helping with the development of the company's driverless technology.
Other major car brands are also developing their own take on driverless technology. BWM, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors are all developing models of autonomous cars, potentially heralding a future where the driver becomes the passenger.
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