UK opens roads to Google's robocar

Planned changes to the Highway Code look set to unleash Google's new driverless car on UK roads.

Current laws prohibit the driverless vehicles, but changes are planned in order to encourage the growth of new technology. UK science minister, David Willets, believes we should also be looking beyond Google's "robocar."

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"There is British technology, and it's a lot cheaper than the Google technology. We are one of the world leaders in this... We have got to ensure that the British has its own opportunity to get tested in a wider range of environments and that's what we are working on with the department for transport."

Oxford University has been developing bolt-on technology that will allow cars to operate without a driver. At the moment the prototype costs roughly £5,000, but the developers claim that this will come down to just £100.

Previously, highway regulations have slowed the progress of autonomous cars. US laws stipulate that a human driver has to be present in the driver's seat at all times for the cars to be tested on public roads. However, California's Department of Motor Vehicles is expected to amend the regulations to allow for cars without human controls.

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Willets continued, "Certainly there are new regulations being drafted in California and obviously this is something I have discussed with the Department for Transport, we are aware of it. We need to work on these type of regulations so that as the technology develops in Oxford and elsewhere we can see them used."

While the widespread adoption of driverless cars is likely to be decades away, the changes to UK regulations are important in order to foster competition and growth in this emerging technology.