Driverless vehicles are set to be tested on motorways across the UK as early as next year.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to make an announcement next week providing details of the trials which will be run by Highways England.
Osborne believes that the UK can “lead the world in new technologies and infrastructure”. He wants to see Britain become a leader in the development of autonomous vehicles.
He said: “At a time of great uncertainty in the global economy, Britain must take bold decisions now to ensure it leads the world when it comes to new technologies and infrastructure. That’s what my budget next week will seek to do.
“Driverless cars could represent the most fundamental change to transport since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Naturally, we need to ensure safety, and that’s what the trials we are introducing will test.”
The project will be funded by the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, believes that the autonomous technology being tested in the trials could “benefit our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment”.
Transport Minister, Claire Perry, made a similar comment on the technology: “Driverless cars are the future. 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.”
“These are still early days but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”
Safety is being touted as one of the main advantages of driverless vehicles, but most Brits refuse to be a passenger in one.
Autonomous vehicles are equipped with systems capable of automatically spotting accidents and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.
However, a recent poll carried out by uSwitch.com found that 49% of British consumers would refuse to be a passenger in an autonomous car, with only 44% believing the technology could make British roads safer. There are also concerns that the software behind the autonomous technology could be hacked.
Even though trials are already underway in Sweden, Japan and the US, 16% of Britons said they were “Horrified” at the thought of driverless vehicles being allowed to travel around on British roads.
Head of Car Insurance at uSwitch.com, Rod Jones, said:
“With human error accounting for around 90% of road accidents, the potential safety benefits of driverless cars are significant and they should have a positive impact on car insurance premiums.”
“However, confusion is still widespread and it will be vital for the Government and the insurance industry to clarify the issue of liability over the coming months if driverless technology is to receive the widespread public support it deserves.”