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Driverless cars on UK roads by 2015

With effect from January 2015 UK drivers may face the prospect of dealing with driverless cars on our already overcrowded city roads.

At present the UK government has announced that these driverless vehicles will be allowed on public roads from January next year and have invited cities to declare an interest for the hosting of just three technical trials before the start of October. The trials will be starting at the same time and are intended to run for between 18 and 36 months, and it is thought that in addition to testing public opinion and safety these trials will be used to review the current UK road regulations and to provide appropriate additional guidelines if it is proved necessary.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, made the announcement at the research facility of Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands, and mentioned that this transformational technology will open up new opportunities for the UK economy and society.

The UK government has set aside a £10m fund to cover the cost of the trials and this will be divided between the three host cities.

The government has already requested civil servants at the Department of Transport to publish a review of road regulations and has given them a deadline of December 2014. This review will concentrate on the compliance with safety and traffic laws and which may involve various changes to the current Highway Code as it applies to England, Scotland and Wales.

Additional areas to be reviewed will examine how these new rules and regulations will apply to these driverless vehicles in which the driver can take back control at short notice, for example in an emergency situation, and how they should apply to driverless vehicles, especially in the case of an accident where both legal and insurance issues may require specific conditions to be met by either the driverless vehicles, such as a routine testing of the guidance system, or one of the passenger(s) may need to be nominated as the designated driver in case of an emergency situation.

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