driverless Google car
Google's driverless cars have no steering wheels or pedals, just a stop/go buttonGoogle

UK cities are to begin bidding for a share of a £10million government investment to become the first test ground for driverless cars.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced today that trials for the computer-controlled vehicles will begin on British public roads as early as January 2015.

Currently, computer-controlled cars are only allowed on private roads. But the Department for Transport will begin reviewing the Highway Code before next year to allow for the next generation of autonomous vehicles.

Up to three cities will be selected to host the trials, which will last between 18 and 36 months.

The government wants to show the world that Britain can be a leader in the new technology, with plans to boost research into the gadgets also expected to be unveiled.

Cable said: "Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society."

But other countries have been swift to allow driverless cars on their public roads. In the US, states like California, Nevada and Florida have all paved the way for the vehicles. In California, Google's computer-driven car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road.

Nissan carried out Japan's first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway in 2013. And the Swedish city of Gothenburg is to allow 1,000 driverless Volvo cars to take to the road by 2017.

The cars work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle's position on an electronic map.

No steering wheel

Last month Google unveiled its computerised "hands-free" self-driving bubble car, which has no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals. Instead it has buttons for start, pull-over and emergency stop.

Other major manufacturers including BMW, Mercedes Benz and General Motors are developing their own models, while Google has put its driverless technology in cars built by companies like Toyota, Audi and Lexus.

Transport Minister Clare Perry says driverless cards have "huge potential to transform the UK's transport network" and that they could "improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2."

But motoring group the AA has said it expects road users to be wary of the new technology.


A survey of 23,000 AA members showed that 43% did not agree that legislation should be amended to even allow trials of the cars.

The RAC backed the findings, saying: "We suspect it will be difficult for people to come to terms with giving up control of their vehicle to a computer."

The survey showed only a very small percentages of people were comfortable with trusting the control of their car to a computer. The most keen are drivers aged 25-34, while pensioners are the group least likely to give up the controls.

AA president Edmund King said: "Today's announcement takes us closer to seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads but it will take some time for them to become commonplace.

"Many drivers are still resistant to change as 65% enjoy driving too much to ever want the vehicle to take over from them."