Driverless cars have officially hit the UK's roads for the first time

Lynsey Barber
Follow Lynsey
Driverless cars hit the roads of Milton Keynes
Several UK tech pioneers have collaborated on the driverless car technology (Source: Transport System Catapult)

Watch out Google and Uber - driverless cars are about to hit the roads of the UK and they've been created by our very own homegrown tech expertise.

The pod-like vehicles will be tested on the roads of Milton Keynes for the first time today, in the latest breakthrough in the government's ambitious driverless car strategy.

After 18 months of intense research and development, including mapping the streets of the city and developing the essential sensor technology which guides the vehicles (as well as those all important safety standards), the pods will now be seen zipping around parts of Milton Keynes.

Read more: Google's driverless cars have now racked up 300 years of driving experience

The Lutz pathfinder project, as it's officially called, is the result of combined efforts of several tech pioneers. That includes the prestigious Oxford Robotics Institute, part of Oxford University, a company spun-off from the institution, Oxbotica, and Coventry-based tech firm RDM.

It's a milestone step in efforts to bring the technology to the UK's roads.

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark said it was evidence of Britain being at the "forefront of innovation".

Neil Fulton, director of the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), the government organisation under which driverless car tech is being created, added: “This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts."

The race to bring driverless cars to Britain's roads is heating up, with established tech giants, new startups and traditional car makers all revving up their research to bring them to roads in the coming years.

Google revealed just last week that it has now clocked up the equivalent 300 years of driving experience in the US, where it's been testing them on California's public roads for some years.

Meanwhile, US-based startup Nutonomy pipped Uber to the starting line by putting the first driverless taxis on the roads of Singapore. Uber later followed suit in Pittsburgh and both can be booked by members of the public.

Read more: Barack Obama just welcomed driverless cars

The latest trial in the UK is expected to pave the way for similar tests in other parts of the country, including Greenwich in London.

It's also hoped the world-leading research will pioneer driverless car technology globally and be applied in other areas.

“The global market for autonomous vehicles present huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms. And the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles," said Clark.

Related articles