The British government has just announced that it will allow driverless cars on the country's public roads starting on January 2015.
Authorities will put up a competition that will award a ten million pounds ($16.9 million) grant to selected cities for hosting a driverless car trial. The funds will be provided by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis).
In a press release, UK officials called on cities around the country to submit proposals for the car trials. Up to three cities will be handpicked as test locations, with trials lasting between 18 and 36 months. The deadline for cities to submit applications for the competition is on October 1.
"Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK's transport network - they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2. We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfill this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads, " Transport Minister Claire Perry said in a press release.
The grant was announced by UK Business Secretary Vince Cable during a visit to a MIRA vehicle engineering facility in Nuneaton, a small town northwest of London. The endowment would be managed by the Technology Strategy Board, the public body responsible for supporting business innovation.
Before driverless cars can be allowed on the country's roads, the technology would first have to get through some legal hurdles. Experts said that Britain's highway laws would need to be changed before driverless cars can be a transport option for people in the country. To address the legal gap, ministers are launching a review of current road regulations.
The leaders will assess compliance in relation to traffic laws, construction and safety regulations and certain stipulations in the Highway Code. The Highway Code is the country's main set of rules for all road users in the country. Ministers will also look at the current laws in place for liability and insurance, licensing and the regulations for driverless cars that have been adopted in other countries. So far, Japan, Sweden and the US states of Florida, Nevada and California have rules in place that allow driverless cars on the road.