A driverless car is set to take the British roads today for the first time ever, although it will be carrying passengers. The trial will use a small, two seater car called a pod, which has been developed by a company formed as part of Oxford University called Oxbotica, and it uses software developed by Oxford University's Oxford Robotics Institute. The pod will be driven around parts of Milton Keynes, a modern town approximately fifty miles north of London, carrying people but under autonomous control. The pod will use data from its onboard camera and radar control systems to drive around pedestrianized areas and the trial run is set to study how the vehicle copes with other road users, including pedestrians.
The British government is encouraging companies, both existing car manufacturers and startups, to invest and develop in autonomous vehicle technologies. The Government believes that the autonomous driving industry could be worth £900 billion by 2025 and is setting down legislation, involving insurance and motoring regulations, to allow driverless vehicles to be used from as soon as 2020. The British Government also has plans to allow vehicles to be tested on the British motorway network from 2017. Presumably, Britain is hoping to promote something of an arms race between the established car makers such as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and the technology businesses investing into autonomous driving technology, such as Google. The reason for this is because the UK economy should benefit from the increased investment supporting this arms race. The British business minister, Greg Clark, said: "The global market for autonomous vehicles present huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms and the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles."
There are numerous technical and legislative issues that need to be resolved before autonomous vehicles can be used in this manner. One of the key difficulties is determining who would be responsible should a collision occur and with this in mind; testers in Milton Keynes have been liaising with local authorities in order to map the town and conduct safety planning. Milton Keynes is one of three cities that will be taking part in these initial self-driving car tests.