Driverless cars in first UK public trial

October 12, 2016

The UK is hosting its first public trials of autonomous cars to test how they operate in a real-world environment. The launch in Milton Keynes follows 18 months of development work as part of a £150m government-funded programme to test new transport systems. This included trials of autonomous ‘pods’, but yesterday’s test was the first use of a fully autonomous car on UK streets. Areas throughout the town have been electronically mapped and legislation has been updated to allow driverless cars to be tested in public. The driverless system was developed in the UK by the Oxford Robotics Institute and one of its sister companies, Oxbotica. Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: ‘[This] is a ground-breaking moment. The global market for autonomous vehicles presents huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms and the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.’ The Transport Systems Catapult, a not-for-profit research centre which developed the Milton Keynes trial, is creating a test facility for driverless vehicles which will be open to universities and start-ups that want to develop and test driverless technologies. Manufacturers and transport companies are carrying out trials of autonomous cars throughout the world in anticipation of their widespread introduction by 2025. Uber's self-driving cars started picking up their first passengers in the USA last month, while Volvo is allowing members of the public to test autonomous cars in Sweden, with trials coming to London next year. Ford believes the potential market for mobility and related services is worth an estimated $5.4 trillion (€4.9 trillion) and expects to offer its first autonomous vehicles to ride-sharing services by 2018.

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