You may soon be sharing tarmac with cars that drive themselves. The government wants to allow manufacturers to begin testing driverless cars on UK roads.
A change to the Highway Code will be announced on Wednesday, according to reports based on industry insider knowledge. Science Minister David Willetts had been pushing for a change in the law earlier in the year.
The first driverless cars will be used on quiet roads from January 2015, allowing manufacturers to gain practical experience of how fully-autonomous vehicles handle real-world conditions.
Autonomous vehicles use GPS, cameras and sensors linked up to a computer to make the vehicle aware of its surroundings, allowing it to get from A to B without any human input.
A self-driving car may prove popular among Brits who are tired of doing all the work, but critics argue it will be difficult to step away completely from the act of driving and there are concerns over safety.
RAC technical director David Bizley commented: “We suspect it will be difficult for people to come to terms with giving up control of their vehicle to a computer.
“Many vehicles already have features such as automatic braking and it is claimed that driverless technology is able to identify hazards more effectively than a person can, but many motorists will be concerned about not being able to control the speed of their vehicle for the conditions or layout of the road.”
The government said it wants to make the UK become a world leader in the adoption and development of autonomous cars.
Google is already testing cars that drive for you in California, a US state that will start handing out autonomous vehicle licences from September 2014.
A recent report by the FBI looked at the possibility a driverless car could be used as a ‘lethal weapon’, with particular focus on the associated security issues of a car that relies on being connected to the internet at all times.