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The United Kingdom is determined to become the world leader in the development of autonomous driving technologies, following the announcement of new legislation for driverless vehicles on British roads.

Announced by Queen Elizabeth II herself, the new laws will allow the UK’s automotive industry to accelerate research and development into autonomous vehicles. This follows reports from March that Britain would commence public road trials of autonomous vehicles this year.

The changes are expected to make the UK a more attractive place for manufactures to trial autonomous technologies, boosting the British automotive industry and placing the Kingdom“at the forefront of autonomous and driverless vehicles ownership and use”.

Under the new legislation, driverless vehicles can be legally tested on public roads in the UK, and insured using the same type of insurance policies required for a regular vehicle.

Volvo driverless autonomous technology

With the new laws surrounding autonomous vehicles, the UK government aims to reap the benefits that should come with the uptake of the technologies, such as reducing the road toll. Data from the UK shows that driver error is a major factor in a huge 94 per cent of road deaths and injuries.

According to a study conducted by the UK government, 31 per cent of women, 14 per cent of men and 46 per cent of people aged between 17-30 do not hold a full driver’s licence. The introduction of autonomous vehicles would dramatically increase accessibility to personal transport in the UK, in turn increasing social inclusion.

Other positives include saving commuters time spent on the road, reducing emissions and easing traffic congestion.

Automotive manufacturers are increasing pressure on global governments to develop laws that suit these new types of vehicles, with brands such as Volvo, Nissan, and Tesla already pushing autonomous technology into their current models or previewing them in next-generation vehicles.

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Above: Volvo is one of several manufacturers leading the development of driverless technology

Last month, Volvo announced its ‘Drive Me London’ driverless project, which will involve a 100-strong fleet of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles by 2018, the UK’s largest-ever trial of autonomous driving technologies. The Scandinavian manufacturer is already running similar trials in China and Sweden.

The UK’s own Land Rover is also planning to offer driverless technology in the not-too-distant future. At last year’s Tokyo motor show, the company’s CEO told CarAdvice that the company is aiming to have the world’s first autonomous off-roader.

The American Tesla Model S was one of the first production vehicles to feature autonomous driving capabilities, with its Autopilot system including automatic steering and automatic lane changing.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, hinted to Fortune magazine last December that the company is aiming to have useable autonomous driving systems by around 2018.

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Above: Tesla Model S

More recently, UK-based firm Thatcham Research reported that the introduction of driverless cars is likely to be made available around the year 2022, according to vehicle manufacturers.

Japanese manufacturer Nissan, has already previewed its vision for a driverless and emissions-free future with its ‘Intelligent Mobility’ concept. The company has already confirmed that its popular Qashqai SUV will be the first model to debut Nissan’s ‘ProPilot’ autonomous technologies when it goes on sale in the UK in 2017.

Paul Willcox, chairman for Nissan Europe, said: “Any new legislation, such as we’ve seen announced, that supports the adoption and integration of autonomous vehicle technologies, is a positive for the UK.

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Above: The 2017 Nissan Qashqai will feature ProPilot autonomous driving tech

In Australia, the most recent foray into driverless technology was in South Australia, which, as part of the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), became the first state locally to legalise the controlled testing of autonomous vehicle technology on public roads.

The first manufacturer to take advantage of the new legislation in Australia was Volvo, where it trialled a pair of semi-autonomous XC90 SUVs on roads around Adelaide – the first driverless technology trial in the southern hemisphere.

What do you think about the introduction of driverless vehicles? Let us know in the comments section below.

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