Driverless car trials could take place on public footpaths in the UK before Christmas as efforts to advance the technology ramp up.
A key figure behind the project to test automated vehicles in the Midlands said the recent creation of a code of practice for the activity was a major boost.
The government this week published the code of practice for trialling driverless cars as well as setting aside £20M to fund innovations in the concept.
A spokesman for Transport Systems Catapult, one of the partners in the UK Autodrive consortium working on driverless cars in Milton Keynes and Coventry, said the code gave fresh momentum to this work.
“This is brilliant news,” he told transport employer body CIHT. “The code of practice opens the way for on-road trials of driverless cars and proves that UK legislation allows them to go ahead.”
The spokesman added that the consortium was aiming to start trials of low speed autonomous vehicles on public footpaths before the end of this year, with on-road driverless car trials likely to begin “within the next couple of years”.
Nick Reed, technical lead on the Gateway project to test autonomous vehicles in Greenwich, agreed that the code was a boost.
“Much research and development is required before driverless cars become commonplace on our streets, but the launch of the code of practice brings this vision a step closer,” he said.
“Now the code of practice has given the green light for testing on UK roads, it won’t be long before you see one of our self-driving vehicles out in public.”
On-road trials are likely to take place in 2016, Reed added.
NCE previously reported that the Venturer consortium was planning to run the first of three sets of experiments on driverless cars in the Bristol area next year. It is working towards a controlled test on an urban road in mid-2018.