UK plans robo-car tests on motorways in 2017

Chancellor plans for world domination of robo-car caper if trials avoid bingles

Google car
A google-mobile. Squint just the right way and it looks like a London bobby's helmet

The United Kingdom's annual budget is delivered this week and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has let it be known that it will include extensive trials of driverless cars.

In a pre-budget statement dropped to media Osborne describes driverless cars as perhaps “the most fundamental change to transport since the invention of the internal combustion engine.” The Budget will therefore set out a schedule for trials to take place on British motorways during 2017.

Osborne's plans are being cast as industry policy: by adopting more efficient robot cars, the nation's sclerotic motorways can be more efficiently used. And if the UK goes robo in a hurry, it might even steal a march in the robot car caper and score some exports at just about the time the whole world goes robo-car crazy and decides that Google, Tesla and the other companies already well-advanced in the field aren't as clever as Blighty's finest.

The chancellor's loaded his statement with caveats galore about safety, the possibility that trials won't go brilliantly and the potential for robo-cars to hit British roads at an indeterminate future date after everything's gone very right.

The statement makes no mention of what the trials might mean for the 875,000 UK residents employed as “Road Transport Drivers” in the Office of National Statistics' 2015 data on occupations in the UK. ®

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