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Driverless vehicles to be on UK roads by 2021

driverless vehicles

With the exponential growth in technology, we’re only a few steps away from seeing autonomous cars on our roads. Transport Sectary Chris Grayling announced that we can expect driverless vehicles to be in-use on British roads in just over three years.

Grayling revels the phenomenon as a revolution in driving; something that will be welcomed by technology enthusiasts as well as the disabled and elderly.

But, what about the dangers…

Mr Grayling is full of praise for the new development and says:

“We’ve seen nothing in our lifetimes that can compare with the motoring revolution that’s just around the corner. A revolution that will transform the way we travel, the way we buy, run and power our cars, and the way we insure them.”

Eager to get ahead of the game, Grayling appealed to the public by noting that the new technology would hugely benefit the U.K. motor industry, with self-driving cars being potentially worth £28 billion by 2035. He also explained that, with self-driving cars, disabled people and elderly people would be able to leave the house more often and have more independence instead of relying on friends and family or public transport to get to places.

Are we ready?

Unsurprisingly, the news has been met by a lot of hesitation and concern.

An Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Through this bill, insurance is set to be mandatory and regulated to ensure victims have “quick and easy access to compensation,” says Grayling. On one hand, this is great for victims to recover compensation, but on the other, it recognises that there will be victims of traffic accidents even though self-driving cars are partially supposed to reduce collisions.

The bill is likely to face an abundance of scrutiny as legislating something that doesn’t fully exist yet can be fairly impractical. With the first introduction of computers and phones, legislators probably couldn’t even dream that one day cyber-bullying, hacking and internet banking fraud could exist.

Are legislators ready to play catch up?

Researchers are already calling for an insurance black hole to be addressed. If two cars involved in a collision are both self-driving but not completely autonomous, who is to blame? Is it whoever has the least sophisticated programming? Whoever took over control manually first? Of course, companies behind the cars may say that collisions are unlikely to happen, but it’s impossible to predict every single interaction on the roads, especially when there is a mixture of human and programmed activity inter-playing.

Testing for these cars is already happening globally and the best test grounds for these cars are deemed to be real roads used by real people. A few weeks ago, a completely autonomous bus was involved in a collision on its first day of service and just yesterday, the BBC was reporting on two separate road accidents in California involving driverless vehicles – a Tesla Model S which hit the back of a firetruck and a General Motors Chevy Bolt which collided with a motorbike.

Many will need a lot more persuasion that self-drive technologies are going to make our roads a safer place for all.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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