LONDON (Reuters) - Britons will from next summer be joined on the roads by driverless cars, after the government gave the go-ahead for the vehicles to be tested on public roads in a bid to encourage companies developing the technology to invest in the country.
Driverless car testing will be restricted to vehicles with a person present and able to take control should the need arise, Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) said.
The DfT said on Wednesday that after carrying out a review into driverless cars, it found there were no legal barriers to the technology being tested on British roads.
It is now working on a code of practise for driverless cars, due to be published in the spring, with vehicles expected to be tested on roads across the country from the summer.
Britain’s auto industry has been growing strongly — the value of British car exports has doubled in the past 10 years — and lawmakers hope that driverless car technology could help sustain the sector in the decades to come.
“I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment,” Transport Minister Claire Perry said in a statement.
The driverless car industry globally is expected to be worth about 900 billion pounds by 2025, according to the UK government, with traditional carmakers such as Daimler vying with technology firms such as Google.
The testing of driverless cars on public roads follows a government investment of 19 million pounds in the technology in four British towns.
Perry is due to be at an event later on Wednesday where a driverless pod and a vehicle developed by defence company BAE Systems will be showcased.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter