The UK’s regulatory environment makes it the ideal centre for driverless technology

Today, in order to keep ahead of the game, three driverless vehicle trials have launched. The trials will look at how the technology can be used to improve public and private transport in busy and complex road environments and will last from 18-36 months.

Ministers will witness the first official trials of the fully autonomous Meridian shuttle in Greenwich and unveil a prototype of a driverless pod that will be tested in public areas in Milton Keynes. They will also be shown other autonomous vehicles involved in the trials, including a BAE wildcat vehicle that is the result of years of advanced research and development by BAE systems and will be tested in Bristol.

Todays announcement shows the UKs strong intent to take this technology to the next level and investigate how vehicles that can take greater control could improve our driving experience and increase safety further.

The next step is for the government to introduce a code of practice which will provide industry with the framework they need to trial cars in real-life scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist.

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Business Secretary Vince Cable said:The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology – from the all-electric cars built in Sunderland, to the formula 1 expertise in the Midlands. Its important for jobs, growth and society that we keep at the forefront of innovation, thats why I launched a competition to research and develop driverless cars. The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world-leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a 900 billion industry by 2025.

“The governments industrial strategy is backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength, we are giving business the confidence to invest over the long term and developing cutting-edge technology that will create high skilled jobs.”

But while the governmentis attempting to bolster the position of the UK as a leading global supplier of driverless cars,Tim Ryan, executive chairman at UNA, believes that they are perhaps failing “to see the whole picture.”

“For example, both motor and personal insurance products will have to evolve dramatically in order to keep up with the seemingly safer driverless cars,” he explained. “In fact Id go as far as saying this will be the end of conventional motor insurance. With a large majority of motor accidents resulting from human error, the safer driverless cars have the potential to remove this element of risk, which in turn has a positive impact on our road safety along with third party damage insurance premiums. With this said however, driverless cars are priced for people of a certain wealth it is estimated that the starting price will be approx. 170,000.

“Therefore the costs of replacing parts and making repairs should a crash occur, will be extremely high. If the cars own automated system was to blame for a road accident, then specifically designed software to analyse the reasoning behind the crash would also be needed. The costs of such advanced technology will almost certainly inflate premiums and increase the demand for comprehensive policies. While we are some way from seeing a glut of driverless cars on the road, from an insurers point of view we have to keep up with this technology by aligning suitable and relevant products and policies. For our industry, now is to the time to think about the future impact and effects of the introduction of driverless cars.

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