“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” said Business Secretary Vince Cable, according to the BBC.
Cable also announced a £10 million (nearly $17 million) competition that will finance the testing in three cities. They expect the testing to last between 18 and 36 months
With this announcement, the U.K. is officially in the driverless car game, but it’s well behind other countries, including the United States. Driverless cars have been tested on California roads for years, logging more than 700,000 autonomous miles, Google says. In Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C., legislatures have already passed bills regulating them.
Initially the British government had set a goal to begin testing the self-driving cars by 2013, but it blew past that deadline.
And while real-world street testing is a critical step in the process of getting these cars on the road, there’s still a long way to go.
Like the U.S., Britain still hasn’t figured out one of the more pressing issues with deploying the technology: who pays when a crash happens?
And though Google first announced its self-driving car project in 2010, years of testing later, the cars still aren’t close to consumer-ready. It wasn’t until 2012 that California introduced their law governing the self-driving vehicles, and 2014 when the state announced it would issue licenses to the vehicles for testing.
The technology, on the other hand, has far outpaced regulations. California and Nevada laws require that the driver be able to regain control of a self-driving car. But earlier this year, Google unveiled a new prototype that doesn’t have a steering wheel or brakes at all.
Startups and car companies are also working on plans to retrofit existing cars with driverless technology. The cars are thought to be safer—guided by dozens of tiny sensors surrounding the vehicle and software that predicts movement of other objects on the road. Their proponents believe they eliminate worries about distracted driving, tiredness, and road rage. These groups are investing in the hope that consumers will get over their initial jitters and come around to their way of thinking that cars are better at this whole driving thing than drivers.
Here’s how Google’s self driving car works: