City bidding for driverless cars as £10m plan gets under way

Vince Cable tries out a driverless car
Business secretary Vince Cable went for a spin in a driverless car yesterday but looked pleased to have a person behind the wheel too

Driverless cars could be weaving their way through the City’s streets in just six months, the government revealed yesterday.

In an announcement that came as a surprise to one of the biggest car manufacturers in the UK, ministers un­veiled a £10m plan to allow three cities the chance to test-run cars that drive themselves. Bids will be submitted jointly by cities, businesses and universities before three are chosen as test locations.

The Mayor’s office yesterday confirmed it was looking closely at the announcement, with a spokesperson telling City A.M.: “We hope to bid.” The new driverless technology would sit nicely alongside Mayor Boris John­son’s green city plans announced this week, which combined ambitious carbon reduction targets with higher congestion charges for diesel cars.

If a London proposal is submitted and accepted by ministers, driverless cars could be up and running on the streets of the capital by January 2015.

Speaking after testing a driverless car yesterday, business secretary Vince Cable said ministers wanted to put the UK at the forefront of the new technology and open up new opportunities for the industry.

“We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest,” Cable added. Min­isters are also looking at the law regarding driverless cars in case tweaks are needed.

The plans could be good news for the car insurance industry too, with Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, suggesting driverless cars could mean lower premiums for drivers investing in the technology.

“Motor insurance is based on risk and much of the cost of a policy is associated with the driver,” Douglas said. “If that element is largely re­moved then driverless cars could potentially attract significantly lower premiums than conventional vehicles, providing the technology that operates them is reliable,” he added.

A spokesperson for Jaguar Land Rover said the company had been working on intelligent driving technology for a number of years and was very interested in the plans.

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