Britain Is Ready To Unleash Driverless Cars On Its Public Roads

ULTraPodHeathrowAirportWikimedia CommonsHeathrow Airport’s ULTra self-driving pods

British Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced plans for driverless cars to hit the country’s roads as early as January of next year.

“Today’s 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,” Cable told the BBC.

As part of the UK government’s plan, cities around the country can bid to become one of three hosts for an 18-36 month driverless car trial program. Participating cities will also receive portions of the $US17 million allocated for the program, reports Relaxnews.

Some have criticised Britain for being behind the curve in the development of driverless cars. Volvo in Sweden, Nissan in Japan, and of course Google in the U.S. have already conducted hundred of thousands of miles of road testing.

Driverless vehicles, in the form of laser-guided ULTra transport pods, are already in service at London’s Heathrow Airport. Elsewhere in England, the city of Milton Keynes unveiled plans last year for the installation of 100 autonomous pods by 2017. The pods are expected to drive in specially designated lanes and will include manual controls should the passenger wish to take control. Unlike the Heathrow pods, the Milton Keynes pods will be guided by satellite.

Because it’s so early in the process, it is unclear what form the driverless cars will take, who the manufacturers will be, and which cities will take part.

To get an idea of what Britain is in for, here is a video that outlines the proposed autonomous pods that are to be installed in Milton Keynes.

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