Government ministers have admitted that the current rules of the roadas laid out in the Highway Code, will be inadequate when a new generation of cars which drive themselves arrive in the near future.
Science minister David Willetts told the Daily Mail that he is in talks with the Department for Transport about rewriting the law to allow cars on UK roads without anyone in the driving seat.
Google plans to test prototypes of its self-driving car in California later this year. It navigates using GPS and Google Maps, and doesn’t have a steering wheel or any pedals. Instead, it uses buttons to start, stop and pull-over.
A British version of Google’s driverless car is currently being developed in Oxford, but currently it would be illegal to test it on public roads.
The science minister said:
“There is British technology, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Google technology.
“But whereas the Google car, they have notched up more miles, so 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.
“We need to work on these type of regulations so that as the technology develops in Oxford and elsewhere we can see them used.”
In 2013′s autumn statement, George Osborne revealed that he wanted to make the UK a centre of development for autonomous cars, pledging a £10 million cash incentive to any town or city which builds a test site for driverless vehicles.
Driverless pods are already in use at Heathrow airport, and there are plans to introduce them to the pavements of Milton Keynes from 2015.