Google is a big fan of Britain’s approach to driverless car technology.
The Californian tech giant has met with UK government officials five times in the last two years, according to documents obtained by The Telegraph — with the UK praised in one meeting as “[showing] remarkable leadership in this area.”
Google is one of the key players in the emerging field of autonomous vehicles. Its cars have driven more than 1.2 million miles since its tests began, and the industry is expected to explode over the next few years: There will be a predicted 10 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020.
The documents seen by The Telegraph — which were released under the Freedom of Information act — are partially redacted, so we don’t know exactly what was discussed. But we do know representatives from the company have met the UK government nearly half a dozen times. This includes Chris Urmson, who is in charge of Google’s self-driving efforts.
At one meeting in California, Google X’s head of policy was “very positive about the non-regulatory approach being taken in the UK, mentioning that it places the UK in a good position and could be seen as an example of best practice,” according to minutes of the meeting.
So what is Google happy about? Britain is trying to position itself as a pioneer for the technology, and offering funding to researchers. Back in July 2015, the UK government launched a £20 million fund — matched by industry — to research self-driving tech.
In a statement released at the time, transport minister Andrew Jones said: “Driverless cars will bring great benefits to our society and economy and I want the UK to lead the way in developing this exciting technology. Our code of practice clearly shows that the UK is in the best position when it comes to testing driverless cars and embracing the motoring of the future. We now look forward to working with industry to make this a reality.”
Another area where the UK has drawn the praise of technology companies is drones. Compared to the US, Britain has relatively lax drone regulations. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has praised the country as a “very encouraging example of good regulation.”
The online retail company does much of its drone development in Britain; at one point, it took Amazon so long to get a licence in the US that by the time it was issued, the drone in question was already obsolete.
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