Britain greenlights driverless cars on public roads

A prototype of a Lutz Pathfinder driverless vehicle is displayed to members of the media in Greenwich, east London, on Feb 11, 2015.  Britain gave the green light on Wednesday for the testing of futuristic driverless cars on public roads in a mu
A prototype of a Lutz Pathfinder driverless vehicle is displayed to members of the media in Greenwich, east London, on Feb 11, 2015.  Britain gave the green light on Wednesday for the testing of futuristic driverless cars on public roads in a multi-million-pound government scheme, with officials saying it would help boost safety. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain gave the green light on Wednesday for the testing of futuristic driverless cars on public roads in a multi-million-pound government scheme, with officials saying it would help boost safety.

"We are launching officially four trials of semi-autonomous vehicles, the first step on the route to driverless technology," Transport Minister Claire Perry told AFP at the unveiling of a prototype driverless car in Greenwich, south-east London.

"It's very good for road safety. Right now 93 per cent of accidents are caused by driver error. It also has the opportunity to free up people's time, to give us extra time in our days. And the other opportunity is to use the road capacity better."

Under the project, the government has appointed three consortia to develop four prototype driverless vehicles.

Greenwich is one of three driverless car project centres funded by the £19 million (S$40 million) scheme.

The other projects are in Coventry and Milton Keynes in central England, and in Bristol in the south-west.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the initiative would seek to ensure Britain is a world leader in what was expected to be a £900 billion industry by 2025.

"In order for this to work, there has to be public acceptance, people to have complete confidence that they're safe and the regulation and the insurance principles operates and so that is happening in parallel with technological development," Cable told AFP.