London: Passengers in driverless cars will need to be ready to take the wheel in a crisis, it has been reported.
With the first trials of computer-controlled cars set to get underway, the Government has started drafting rules that will require those inside the vehicles to remain alert and fit to drive at all times.
A person sitting in the drivers seat will also still be required to wear a seatbelt and be responsible for speeding fines or penalties incurred, the Sunday Times reported. Graham Parkhurst, the head of one of the four official pilot projects, told the newspaper that they will be examining how long a driver can stay alert if they had nothing to do.
‘It is like the laws in the infancy of motoring when a man had to walk in front of a motor vehicle waving a red flag,’ he told the Sunday Times.  Ministers have previously admitted that the current Highway Code and rules of the road are inadequate for the new generation of vehicles which pilot themselves.–DM
Bristol, Greenwich in south east London and Coventry and Milton Keynes will all host autonomous driving projects that will run for between 18 and 36 months starting this year.
It is hoped that testing driverless cars in a real-world environment will help lead to greater levels of understanding of the vehicles and will allow the public to imagine how the cars could fit into everyday life.
Milton Keynes and Coventry will share the UK Autodrive programme, which involves Ford, Jaguar Land Rover as well as a number of universities and engineering consultancies.
They will test self-driving cars on real roads as well as lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised areas in Milton Keynes.
One of the focuses of the trial will be developing infrastructure to best interact with the cars.
The scheme involves General Motors, the AA and RAC.
Finally, experts in Bristol will investigate the insurance implications of driverless vehicles and study the public’s response to the technology.
The Venturer consortium programme ‘aims to deepen understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for our economy and society,’ Innovate UK said.
The hilly city’s challenging terrain will also allow engineers to see how the cars cope with busy, winding roads.
It is hoped that the data collected will be used to successfully introduce driverless cars in cities and towns across the UK to reduce congestion, improve air quality and use roads more efficiently and safely.
The chancellor announced an extra £9 million in funding for the new technology, adding to £10 million already promised in the summer.
The aim is to establish the UK as the global hub for the research, development and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies.