Driverless cars could be on the roads in 20 years' time, as scientists have been given the go-ahead to test their prototype on Britain's public roads.
After lobbying government (specifically, the Department of Transport), science minister David Willets managed to secure the green light for the Oxford University-based academics. Called 'RobotCar', the prototype uses computers and cameras to self-navigate.
Its motor comprises a modified part from a Nissan Leaf and those behind it believe it could provide a cheaper alternative to the much-publicised driverless car from Google. A spokesman for the Oxford University's department of engineering science, Dr Malcolm McCulloch, called the introduction of driverless cars to the UK an "inevitable" event.
"Much of the technology is already in existing vehicles," he told ibtimes.co.uk. "The next stage is where the car drives a route it has navigated before under various conditions, and has learnt; that could be deployable in five years.
"The second stage is where the car navigates a route that has not been driven before, using shared vehicle data. This is probably 10 to 15 years away."
If his comments are to be believed, the next generation of British drivers could well find themselves driving alongside these cars by the time they pass their tests - although it isn't yet clear how things like insurance would work, should there be an accident between a driven and driverless car, or two of the latter. The models are likely to be much sought-after though, making tracking systems a must, in the event of theft.
The changes to UK driving regulations needed to embrace this testing will follow a model similar to that used in California, in which a special regulatory regime allows driverless cars to venture out into the public arena, financialexpress.com reports.