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UK government embraces autonomous and driverless vehicles

The UK government has launched an open consultation online alongside a £30 million competition to win funding for the research and development of autonomous vehicle technologies.

It is currently estimated that cars with driver assistance features will be available to consumers in the UK within “two to four years.” Driverless vehicles will not likely be publicly available until the 2020s.

The consultation is seeking public opinion to a proposal which would change the rules to make it possible to insure autonomous vehicles for use on UK roads. Being able to insure autonomous vehicles would be help push their adoption as consumers would know they were protected when using these new technologies.

The Director of General Insurance Policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), James Dalton added further insight into how support from insurers could help drive demand for these new technologies, saying: “The ABI’s Automated Driving Insurer Group has been engaged in constructive and productive discussions with the DfT for many months now so it is good to see the importance of insurance to the vehicles of the future recognised within this consultation.”

“The development of automated driving will revolutionise motoring, potentially as important a road safety innovation as the seatbelt. Insurers strongly support the Government’s ambition of making the UK a world leader in this technology and believe the insurance industry has a key role in helping give consumers confidence in using these vehicles when they become more widely available.”

The Highway Code in addition to other regulations will also be adapted in order to safely allow driver assistance systems to support lane changes on highways and parking via remote control.

Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin explained why the government decided to launch an open consultation online, saying: “Britain is leading the way but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies. Our roads are already some of the safest in the world and increasing advanced driver assist and driverless technologies has the potential to help cut the number of accidents further.”

The government has opted to support driverless cars before. In February, it awarded £20 million to research projects working on developing autonomous vehicle technologies.

An additional £30 million from the Intelligent Mobility Fund will be used to fund even more research and development projects.

Image Credit: Riopatuca / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.