While California’s regulations for self-driving cars have stalled, the U.K. has made a bold move in allowing testing of hands-free cars

Self-Driving Cars Cleared For Road Tests In U.K.

The U.K.’s Dept. for Transport has decided to allow “hands-free” or self-driving cars to be tested on the country’s roads. This is the first step toward allowing driverless cars on the roads—something Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and the guys at Google are both striving for.

U.K. regulators and “The Pathway to Driverless Cars”

Officials with the Dept. for Transport in the U.K. have published a report entitled “The Pathway to Driverless Cars: A detailed review of regulations for automated vehicle technologies.” TechCrunch spotted the report, which officially gives companies the green light to start testing self-driving cars on the roads.

The agency listed several potentials of driverless cars, saying that they could improve our lives “profoundly” by making driving easier and enabling people to be more productive. Also the report mentions “adaptive cruise control and lane keeping technologies” that are currently available in some vehicles. Self-parking features and advanced emergency braking is also available in some vehicles.

Regulators say these technologies will ultimately move us closer to totally driverless vehicles. They add that fully self-driving cars probably won’t be on the roads until at least 2020.

The next step toward fully self-driving cars

Of course there is one big requirement for the testing. The report states that there is no legal or regulatory reason that “automated vehicles where an individual is ready to take control of the car if necessary” can’t be tested on the roads.

The report also states that during this testing phase, all cars with automated features must have a “suitably qualified ‘test driver’ who will be supervising the vehicle and be ready and able to take over active control if necessary.”

With today’s blessing from U.K. regulators, the nation is forging ahead of California, home of Silicon Valley where so much technology is born and often adopted early. California lawmakers delayed the release of regulations for self-driving cars.

Interestingly, one company is already planning to start testing some “self-driving pods” this year in Milton Keynes. Indeed, the pods are quite eye-catching. This picture was in the Dept. of Transport’s report.

The next step toward driverless cars

Officials with the department expect to publish another report about self-driving vehicle technology this spring. The next report will outline “the framework” needed in order to “trial cars in real-life scenarios.” It will also provide details about how the auto industry can “create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist.”

Regulators add that the next step toward driverless cars is the introduction of technology that enables drivers to decide whether they want to drive or if they would rather let the car take care of the driving.