Government urged to shake ‘passive’ attitude toward driverless cars

The Government needs to drop its “passive” attitude toward the imminent arrival of driverless cars and put in place a strategy capable of steering the rollout across the UK, a group of MPs has urged.

The assessment follows a report from the Commons' transport committee into the country’s ability to handle the technology’s arrival. Britons will be joined on the roads by driverless cars next summer after the Government green lit trials on public roads but it may be a step too far too soon, according to the report.

It said transport ministers needed to spell out how autonomous driving cars would impact the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers as well as ensure UK regulation was in line with international standards.

MPs should also ask the information commissioner to update guidelines on the collection, access and use of vehicle data. This has been an area of contention between car makers and technology companies, who are increasingly forming uneasy alliances burdened by quarrels over data ownership.

Companies such as Nissan, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover are all moving closer to putting driverless cars on the assembly line though the gathering momentum has perhaps caught many countries off guard. Evidence from the report suggested that within 10 years sell-driving features will be on automatic, semi-automatic and manual cars.

Louis Ellman, MP and chair of the Transport Committee, said in the report that the Government may have to step in to oversee at some of the autonomous technology on cars If they are to become a safe additional to the country’s transport system.

“The Government must do more to ensure that people and businesses in the UK benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she added.

The clarion call reflects the apprehension of a UK public concerned about safey issues. Nearly half (43 per cent) of adults o not trust driverless cars with their safety, other drivers or pedestrians, according to a uSwitch.com survey of 953. A further 16 per cent said they were “horrified” by the entire concept of not having a human at the wheel of a car. Many of the fears stem from a dearth of examples of the cars in action, an issue manufacturers hope to soon rectify.

Rod Jones, insurance expert at uSwitch.com backed the report's findings.

“If driverless technology is to receive the widespread public support it deserves, it is vital that the Government and the insurance industry clarify the issues of liability and insurance premiums over the coming months," he added.

Driverless cars on public roads will happen next year through a series of trials, while the Department of Transport is already drafting a code of practise for the technology that is due out later this year. Around 90 per cent of crashes are caused by human error, according to official figures and so ministers and car bosses are positioning the technology as a way to improve safety on the roads.

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