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2nd May 2015

Driverless cars

It appears that the government wants the UK to become a world leader in driverless technology and will publish a code of practice which will allow the testing of autonomous cars to go ahead. Self-drive pods will be tested in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

The government has promised a full review of current legislation by the summer of 2017. That review will involve a rewrite of the Highway Code and adjustments to MOT test guidelines, potentially taking into account whether a higher standard of driving should be demanded of automated vehicles.

It will also look at who would be responsible in the event of a collision and how to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrian The Department of Transport report acknowledged that true driverless cars may be some way off and that current tests of the technology will need to include a qualified test driver to supervise the vehicle.

To mark the launch of the review, Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted some of the trials that they are funding, including a fully autonomous shuttle in Greenwich and a BAE System-developed Wildcat vehicle, which will be tested in Bristol.

Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These trials are not just about harnessing technology to make our travelling lives easier and safer, they also involve getting the regulation right.

“Alongside the hi-tech innovation you need policy decisions on long-term, low-tech matters such as who takes responsibility if things go wrong. As and when these vehicles become commonplace, there is likely to be a shift from personal to product liability and that is a whole new ball game for insurers and manufacturers.”

But the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) said that it was concerned that, while the government is pushing ahead with making driverless cars a reality, the service and repair sector did not yet have the skills and infrastructure in place to deal with the new technology.

Seems to me that there are some technological and technical barriers but – even more importantly – some ethical and moral questions to be answered too. Such as who is responsible if the car is involved in an accident?

I wonder what impact this will have on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions? What do you think?

Kind regards

Paul Hutchens

Managing Director

Eco2 Solar Ltd, Worcestershire, England