Google considers the UK a potential market for its driverless cars, according to minutes of meetings between the UK government and Google representatives. Between January 2014 and July 2015, Google held five rounds of talks with the Department for Transport about its self-driving car project. Google is said to be full of praise for Britain's driverless car rules and how they have been implemented so far.
Chris Urmson, head of Google's self-driving car project, and Jennifer Haroon, the tech company's head of business, attended the meetings. Officials from various government departments such as the Treasury and UK Trade & Investment were also involved in the discussions.
According to the documents obtained by the Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act, Google targets the UK as one of the key markets for its autonomous vehicles, which have clocked more than one million miles on public roads since 2012, and are currently being tested on the streets of California. However, the minutes do not state whether Google plans to test the cars in the UK.
In July, the government floated a £20m competitive fund for research and development into driverless vehicles, along with a code of practices for testing to make the UK the best place for testing. The announcement made by Sajid Javid, business secretary, and transport minister Andrew Jones, is part of the £100m set apart for research into intelligent mobility announced by the Chancellor in the Spring 2015 Budget.
In a meeting held in February at Google's London office, Sarah Hunter, the head of policy for Google X – Google's tech research division – said the company was "very positive about the non-regulatory approach being taken in the UK [which] places the UK in a good position and could be seen as an example of best practice".
At another meeting in July at the Google X headquarters in California, Hunter said the UK "has shown remarkable leadership in this area".
The minutes also suggest Google's special interest in issues regarding insurance for driverless cars, which would be controlled by computers. In all cases, the liability would rest with the manufacturer.
Hunter further noted "the development of innovative insurance models as an area for the UK leadership and a question Google are interested in". According to the minutes, the DfT said it would refer Google to the Bank of England, "who are doing modelling activity on [the] insurance sector and want to speak to Google".
While there was no comment from Google, a spokesperson for the DfT said: "Driverless cars will bring great benefits to our society, the economy and road safety and we are investing millions into research and trials for the motoring of the future."
"The UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles. We are making sure our laws are in step with this fast evolving technology and are working with industry to keep the UK at the forefront of its development."