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Driverless cars to be trialled on UK roads after government green light

A fully autonomous car, which is able to drive and navigate without human input, has been given the go-ahead for a trial on public roads in the UK.

The adapted Nissan Leaf has been developed by engineers from Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group (MRG), and will take to UK roads “later in the year” after getting approval from the government in its Action for Roads policy document.

The vehicle – named RobotCar – is able to drive itself using combined data from cameras, radars and laser sensors fitted to its front and rear, and has already been tested on private roads on the Oxford University campus.

The government makes it clear that the systems are not intended to replace drivers, but that they are an extra way of keeping the driver from making mistakes such as deviating from lanes or failing to brake for a collision. “Fully autonomous cars remain a further step, and for the time being drivers will have the option – and responsibility – of taking control of the vehicle themselves,” the document said.

A spokesperson for Oxford University erred on the side of caution, insisting that there is still a long way to go for this technology. “We hope to test the Oxford robot electric car on the road in the coming weeks as an essential part of building a complete system. But, as many of the components have yet to be developed, the first public demonstration on UK public roads will not occur for some time.

“There’s a lot more research and testing to do, but the project is progressing well and we welcome this announcement.”


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