Driverless cars given green light by the Government

  • UK's road network gets £28bn investment
  • Testing will start by the end of the year
  • Benefits include reduced overheads and improved safety

We could all soon be passengers on our daily commute to work as the Government has announced driverless cars will be tested on UK roads by the end of this year, part of a £28bn investment in the country’s road network.

To date, UK trials of autonomous (driverless) vehicles have taken place only on private land at Oxford University. Now, testing will be carried out on the public rural and suburban roads around the campus.

Autonomous cars are not a completely new concept. Cars are available to buy now with elements of this technology already well-established including Lane Assist (which can correct the steering to prevent a car straying out of lane), Park Assist (which steers the car into a space independently while the driver operates the pedals), cruise control and emergency braking systems.

Autonomous technology uses lasers and cameras to assess the surroundings enabling the car to stay on the road. Not only that, it can also memorise regular trips like your commute to the office or the supermarket.

The benefits of using the technology, according to the report, include improved driver safety, better user experience, reduced costs and improved carbon emissions, as well as having the potential to completely transform the way we travel on the roads.

“The proposals laid out are the most radical change to the management of our highways in nearly half a century, and the biggest investment in improvements since the seventies,” says Patrick McLoughlin MP, secretary of state for transport.

If the trials are successful, the Government is keen to make use of the technology quickly and will work with the motoring industry and the research community to encourage speedy development and take up.

Also announced in the report is a further £500 million investment in electric cars, plus the national network of motorways and trunk roads will get extra lanes, smoother, quieter surfaces, improved junctions and new sections, making this the biggest ever upgrade of the existing network.

The Highways Agency will also be turned into a publicly owned company with six year funding certainty for capital projects and maintenance.

“Our major roads are vital to the prosperity of our nation, connecting people to jobs and businesses to markets,” said McLoughlin “They carry a third of all traffic and two thirds of all freight traffic but in recent decades we have failed to invest properly in them.

“Today’s changes will bring an end to the short-term thinking that has blighted investment in England’s roads so that we can deliver the infrastructure our economy needs. Backed by the government’s £28 billion commitment, they will give us a road network fit for the 21st century and beyond.”