UK government wants to lead the way on driverless cars

Although it did not get much press attention when Britain’s National Infrastructure Plan was launched earlier in the month, one section of the plan sets out an ambitious approach to driverless cars.

As the BBC reports:

The government has announced that it wants to make the UK a world centre for the development of driverless cars.

It said it would conduct a review next year to ensure that the legislative and regulatory framework is in place for such vehicles to be incorporated on Britain’s roads.

It will also create a £10m prize to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for autonomous vehicles…

Many think that the issue of who will be liable in the event of accidents will hold up the development of autonomous vehicles but … software engineer and adviser to Google on its self-drive car project … Mr Templeton is not convinced.

“I think only the barristers will find it the most interesting question,” he said.

“For me the more interesting question is whether a machine is more liable than a drunk driver. Countries that decide a machine is more liable will slow the development of this technology,” he added.

Car manufacturers suggest that autonomous vehicles will be on the roads within the decade.

That point about insurance rules may not be interesting in Templeton’s views. It doesn’t make it trivial, however, as who the law puts financial risks on greatly influences innovation. It is an example of why policymakers need to start getting to grip with this area.

2 responses to “UK government wants to lead the way on driverless cars”

  1. It seems to me that the “killer app” for this technology is not only driverless cars but also passengerless cars – in other words you don’t need the person who is on paper in charge of the vehicle to be physically present   . So you could jump out of the car a city centre and leave it to find a place to park itself. Or you could send your 16 year-old daughter to her friends and not be her taxi-service. Or you can call it to pick you up from the pub in the town centre without having used town centre parking space all day or you could send something important to a branch office without losing an afternoon driving up there in person. A lot of the uses of this disappear when there has to be someone sitting in the driving seat and sober. I hope the legislation will be suitably ambitious in this regard.

  2. @Richard S Good point. It also seems much more likely to me that Amazon and other will switch to delivery via automated road vehicle than to delivery via the air. The road vehicles can efficiently carry much more load – and if driverless, bring many efficiencies for the firm over their current setups.

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