Ministers are rewriting the Highway Code, the rules governing the use of roads in Britain, to allow driverless cars, according to the MailOnline. The current laws are thought to be inadequate for the challenges raised by new technologies being brought in by companies like google.
The US computer giant has already unveiled a car that drives itself without the need for a steering wheel or pedals. Instead it just has a start button and a button to pull over, the rest of done by GPS and google maps. The cars will be tested in California in the summer, although there are concerns about safety due to the almost total lack of control of the passengers.
Academics at the University of Oxford have developed a rival auto-pilot system, which memorises a route. The computer can recognise its surroundings and offer drivers to option to engage auto-pilot on routes they have travelled before. A touch of one of the pedals disengages the system and puts the driver back into full control, much like cruise control.
Science Minister David Willets said: “You need a regulatory regime so that these are permitted. What America is going to have is a legal regime in California that permits you to travel in one without requiring someone in the so-called drivers seat.
“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.”
So far the concern about driverless cars has been related to who is blamed when something goes wrong. At present it is normally very clear who is to blame for a crash, but this may not be the case in future.
It would also be very problematic to blame the passengers of the driverless vehicle for any accidents that take place, but blaming the manufacturer for most crashes would also discourage the development of the technology.
British ministers believe that driverless cars should be used on roads as long as they can be turned off by those onboard.