UK to trial driverless cars without safety drivers

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Completely driverless cars without safety drivers could be on British roads by the end of the year.

The government has announced new advanced trial guidelines for the technology which could see autonomous vehicles on public roads within a matter of months.

The Department for Transport said that self-driving cars without steering wheels would be allowed on any public road in the country if they pass the “rigorous safety assessments” needed before the trial.

Uber suspended testing of its self-driving cars in March 2018 after one struck and killed a female cyclist in Phoenix, Arizona.

Image: The safety systems in driverless cars have been a prominent issue in testing

Investigators said the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel when the woman, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was struck.

Although there have been no reported fatalities as a result of self-driving car collisions in the UK since trials began, safety concerns regarding the vehicles have been considerable and are a major stumbling block to the adoption of the technology.

Because of this, the government has been emphatic about its desire to engage with industry testing in the hope of allowing completely self-driving cars on UK roads by 2021.

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Image: The government is keen to see self-driving on UK roads by 2021

In Britain public trials of driverless cars began in Milton Keynes in October 2016, where a company spun out of the Oxford Robotics Institute, Oxbotica, began testing the vehicles.

The technology has been estimated to be worth £52bn to the UK by 2035, and the government’s industrial strategy has set out plans to make Britain a world leader.

However the early date of the end of this year has prompted warnings from transport experts who have suggested the technology is still immature.

Image: AI systems aboard driverless cars need to map out the surrounding areas

Another driverless shuttle bus was involved in a crash less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas.

The potential damage caused to other vehicles as well as contributions towards traffic jams are a concern for regulators and legislators.

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