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DfT boss says city roads are 'not ready for driverless cars'

Google  driverless car

Driverless cars will be introduced on motorways before city streets, a Department for Transport (DfT) chief has said. 

It will be easier to run autonomous vehicles on the major road network which has fewer hazards for the new technology to cope with, DfT head of RIS2 Michael Dnes told the New Civil Engineer UK Transport conference.

Driverless technology, which could be on the roads by 2021 according to chancellor Phillip Hammond, may be suited to freight transport rather than inner-city use such as taxis, Dnes said. 

“Where are they going to run? Where do we find the road on which they work best?” he said, “[Motorways] are built to be very regular and understandable and surprise-free.

“I think there is more thinking to be done about this, some driverless cars running somewhere by 2021 is do-able, but how do we support the ability to operate across a wider area?”

Highways Term Maintenance Association chief executive George Lee added: “There are very few local road networks that are capable of running autonomous vehicles.”

“The government is being very, very ambitious if it wants them running over all the network by 2021,” he added.

Poor road conditions that “confuse” autonomous vehicles will prevent the UK from expanding the driverless car network, a technology start-up said last month.

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