LONDON — Driverless cars will begin trials on local roads in the UK this year, motorways the next, and could be widely used by 2020, if Chancellor George Osborne has his way.
Osborne will use the occasion of the budget statement Wednesday to announce measures intended to make Britain a leader in the technology.
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“Driverless cars could represent the most fundamental change to transport since the invention of the internal combustion engine," Osborne said, in an emailed statement to Mashable.
"Naturally we need to ensure safety, and that’s what the trials we are introducing will test. If successful, we could see driverless cars available for sale and on Britain’s roads, boosting UK jobs and productivity,” he said.
He will announce proposals to eliminate regulations that keep driverless cars off motorways.
Osborne's statement could come as good news to Google, which has held meetings with the government on driverless cars and sees the UK as an important market for the technology, the Independent reported.
In January, the GATEway project consortium announced plans to adopt autonomous pods used at London's Heathrow airport for use in trials on real roads. The pods will be tested for three months, and the routes are thought to include residential parts of Greenwich, the North Greenwich tube station and around the iconic O2 venue.
Three other trials are planned in the UK, in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes.
Osborne will also propose spending £15 million ($21.6 million) to create a "connected corridor" from London to Dover to help vehicles communicate wirelessly, and trials of "truck platooning" — automated trucks moving closely to each other on motorways to save space.