The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads beginning this January. Cities throughout the UK can place bids to become test-driving areas for the driverless vehicles; however, out of the applicant pool, only three will be chosen.
Though several engineering groups, including one from the University of Oxford, have been experimenting with self-driving technology on private roads, the upcoming government-funded tests will mark the first time self-driving cars will be permitted on public roads. These test periods will last anywhere between 18 and 36 months, Mashable reports.
In addition to joining a number of U.S. states in allowing them public road usage, ministers have ordered a review of UK road regulations to accommodate the vehicles prior to their 2015 arrival. Other countries have, however, been swifter to provide access to public routes. As Mashable notes, the U.S. states of California, Nevada and Florida have all approved tests of the vehicles. In California alone, Google’s driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road. In 2013, Nissan carried out Japan’s first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway. And in Europe, the Swedish city of Gothenburg has given Volvo permission to test 100 driverless cars – although that trial is not scheduled to occur until 2017.
“Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network — they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2,” Transport Minister Claire Perry said in the recent statement.
“The announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” explained Business Secretary Vince Cable.
British cities interested in becoming test areas have until October 1, 2014, to declare a bid. The three selected cities will receive a £10 million stipend (approximately $17 million) to be divided equally among them, the official press release states. At this point, it’s not public knowledge yet as to which companies will produce the self-driving cars.