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Government – UK Is ‘Not Prepared’ For Driverless Cars

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Commons transport committee report says that more needs to be done to make Britain ready for the automotive revolution

The UK is a long way from being able to support driverless cars, a government report has found.

Despite a big surge in hype surrounding driverless cars following a number of announcements from major manufacturers, the UK is critically underprepared for the effect the introduction of these vehicles will have on our roads, according to findings from the Commons transport committee.

Due to the large investment being made in the area, advances in motoring technology could outpace Government road safety measures, its report says.

Among the primary concerns are liability for crashes and how drivers will be trained and licensed, but a number of safety issues also need to be looked at, it found.

audi bobby piloted driving trackTransition

But the report warns that the rapid increase in technology (such as Audi’s Bobby concept, pictured left) has meant that transport safety has become “an increasingly complex area”.

“There is a risk that technology will run ahead of Government processes for ensuring safe motoring outcomes,” the report said.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said safety was its “first priority” and it was “working closely with industry”.

More also needs to be done to prepare for the transition period that will occur when the number of semi-autonomous and fully driverless cars begins to grow and outnumber traditional vehicles, the report said, adding that the public need to be sure that new types of vehicles are safe to travel on Britain’s roads.

AA president Edmund King said: “The report rightly points to potential problems of a transition period on the roads.

“There is a potential nightmare scenario whereby robotic driverless cars are fighting for space with cars with humans behind the wheel and indeed semi-autonomous cars with no-one totally in control.

“We really need a safe vision for the future whereby all vehicles and all road users can coexist in harmony.

“This vision will entail government, manufacturers, insurers and indeed drivers agreeing the way ahead.”

solar roadways signs“Once in a lifetime”

The report said new automotive technologies could provide a number of positives for the UK, including reducing congestion, improving road safety and providing the basis for rapid industrial growth.

Calling the advances, “a once-in-a-lifetime commercial opportunity”, the report called on the Government to help the UK’s automotive industry to seize the chances available.

“Motoring is being transformed by new materials, new fuels and information technology. However, the Government must act if people and businesses in the UK are to obtain the full benefit of this ongoing automotive revolution,” it said.

However such a revolution can only happen if the DfT develops a comprehensive strategy to maximise the benefits of new motoring technology, with the report outlining a selection of steps that need to be taken.

This includes:

  • Clarifying how the introduction of self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers;
  • Positively engaging in setting European and international standards that will help UK manufacturers develop products suitable for export;
  • Asking the Information Commissioner to update guidelines on the collection, access and use of vehicle data;
  • Using data on driver behaviour held by the insurance industry and others to inform policy-making and improve road safety

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