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Age-old law blocks driverless cars from being tested

Britain's got this old, old legislation which, at this time, would effectively block driverless vehicles from hitting the country's roads.

This outdated law about driving horse, cattle and pigs on the pavement will most likely get rewritten soon, though.

As the Times reports (opens in new tab), government lawyers are seeking to redraft the Highway Act 1835 to allow revolutionary “pods” to be tested on pavements in southeast England.

The Highway Act 1835 bans people from riding horse-drawn carriages and driving a “horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine or cattle” down the road. The same legislation is used to stop cyclist riding on the pavement and drivers mounting the kerb while parking.

The autonomous two-seaters will undergo a three-year trial — part-funded by the taxpayer — to put Britain at the forefront of the development of driverless technology.

Under the plans, the vehicles are supposed to be used on paths rather than roads, providing passengers with low-speed transportation to shops, hospital and workplaces. No high-speed robot-cars chasing through the streets of London just yet.

Tim Armitage, project director of the £19 million ($30 million) UK Autodrive project, told the Times he's confident the legal obstacle can be overcome.

Driverless cars are one of the hottest emerging technologies today, together with cloud computing, virtual reality and FIFA 15. Many car makers, as well as other tech companies, have jumped on the autonomous vehicles bandwagon, preparing their own technologies and vehicles.

As IT Pro Portal reported earlier (opens in new tab), four cities across the UK will begin trialling driverless cars funded by Innovate UK.

Self-driving motors will be tootling around Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.