Reported by the Associated Press and posted in an article by the AJC, the United Kingdom is the first country to run studies on driverless-cars, as well as test them on public roads.
On Wednesday, February 11th, four self-drive prototype cars were released in London to launch the first public trials. One car, called a "LUTZ, which stands for Low-carbon Urban Transport Zone, Pathfinder Pod" seats two people, and will be tested with the other prototypes in four British cities. The main area in London where these vehicles will be tested is the O2 Arena, where the media event for the launch of the study was held. Another prototype that was taken out for several test-drives around the Arena was a shuttle that resembled a large golf-cart (pictured below) and appears to serve as a public transportation vehicle. Britain has goals to be the leader in driverless-car innovation as well as the further development of these vehicles. The driverless-cars are also being tested in United States cities, by technology companies such as Google.
Automobile companies in the United States like Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are also manufacturing their own self-drive vehicles, however, none of them are ready to be tested on public roads and highways.
By this summer, the next step is for British officials to post guidelines for automobile companies to "test the cars in 'real-life scenarios'". After these guidelines have been published, qualified drivers will ride in the vehicles with adequate preparation to take over control should anything unexpected happen.
Other next steps, which may prove to be fairly large hurdles to overcome, include regulation and legal changes, including the establishment of liability if a self-drive car is involved in a collision. British officials predict that most drivers will be apprehensive about driverless driving until liability concerns are addressed, most likely by statute.
So far, British officials have stated that driverless-cars are unlikely to be fully used on roadways until the year 2030. The British government, however, is currently spending 19 million pounds (or $29 million dollars) to develop "four trial centers around the country" as well as stating that domestic road regulations will be reviewed and amended by 2017.
Overall, driverless-cars are expected to be more efficient, safe, and appeal to global investment.
In addition to the U.S., Germany has also expressed much interest in "automated driving". German officials have pinpointed a section of a busy highway that connects Munich and Berlin to use for testing systems to be incorporated into vehicles. These systems would measure road conditions such as ice, potholes, and heat, and transmit them to the vehicle's driver. The long-term plan for this section of highway is to be able to accommodate driver-assistance systems and eventually driverless-vehicles.