The House of Lords is investigating the pros and cons of driverless cars

Rebecca Smith
Driverless cars hit the roads of Milton Keynes earlier this month
Driverless cars hit the roads of Milton Keynes earlier this month (Source: Transport System Catapult)

Anyone feeling edgy about the progress of driverless cars and their imminent arrival on UK roads can rest easy (sort of).

Next week the House of Lords will get cracking on its inquiry into autonomous vehicles and their future on UK roads. The science and technology committee will meet on Tuesday 1 November and hear evidence from government officials and leading academic experts to look into a range of issues cropping up around the development of driverless cars.

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

The legal concerns have been referred to repeatedly - such as who would be legally responsible if there were to be an accident in a driverless vehicle - and they'll be on the committee's list of questions to discuss.

Some of the big questions the HoL will mull over:

  • Is it clear who is legally accountable for a vehicle that "thinks" for itself?
  • To what extent can the UK devise its own regulations and standards for autonomous vehicles in these sectors and is there a need for international cooperation?
  • What impact could autonomous vehicles have on employment?
  • Can new autonomous vehicles operate safely, efficiently and effectively on existing infrastructure, or will the UK have to make significant new investments?
  • What tools will be necessary for regulating, certifying or enforcing the software and artificial intelligence world of autonomous vehicles?
  • The USA has been researching autonomous vehicles since around 2008, is the UK doing enough in comparison?

Read more: Google's gearing up to spin off its self-driving cars business

The question concerning whether the UK is lagging behind in the driverless cars race comes soon after the announcement that autonomous vehicles were hitting the roads of the UK for the first time.

They were tested on the roads of Milton Keynes for the first time earlier this month, but Google has clocked up the equivalent of 300 years of driving experience in the US, where it's been testing them for some time.

Its parent company Alphabet has just announced its autonomous vehicle project, the X lab, is becoming a standalone unit - potentially the first step on its journey to becoming an independent company.

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