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Driverless Cars to Be Tested on UK Roads

Many people have been following with interest Google's trials of a driverless car in California. The technology giant's car has reportedly covered more than 100,000 miles in California without mishap. Now, for the first time, a driverless car is to be tested on Britain's roads.

Many people have been following with interest Google's trials of a driverless car in California. The technology giant's car has reportedly covered more than 100,000 miles in California without mishap. Now, for the first time, a driverless car is to be tested on Britain's roads. The car has been developed by Oxford University researchers in conjunction with Japanese manufacturer, Nissan. The car has already been tested on private roads, but now the Department of Transport has given the go ahead for trials on public roads alongside normal traffic. The cars will drive themselves but they will have a back-up human driver on board in case of any failures. The first tests will be in light traffic conditions on rural and suburban roads.

The Oxford University car is a converted Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. It is capable of driving itself along a predetermined route, but the human driver can take over at any time by tapping the brakes. Researchers believe that technology from the car could be used to make current cars even safer. The trials are part of the government's £28 billion road strategy, which will also see a further £500 million being invested in electric vehicles. The money will also be used to widen and resurface major routes in a bid to cut congestion and reduce road noise.

Ministers seem determined to push ahead with the plans and will look at ways of enshrining the project in law to ensure the funding is made available over the next six years, regardless of who is in power. The investment marks the largest cash injection for roads since the 1970s and will treble the money being spent on motorways and 'A' roads. The proposals also include a project to build a road tunnel under Stonehenge and were included in a Command Paper published on July 16.

The plans are sure to face opposition from environmental groups, but Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin argued that major roads are of critical importance to the British economy.

McLoughlin said: "They carry a third of all traffic and two thirds of all freight traffic, but in recent decades we have failed to invest properly in them. That underinvestment has seen us fall behind many of our economic competitors".

The Conservative MP added: "Since 1990, France has built more motorway miles than exist on our entire network, while Canada, Japan and Australia all spend four times more on their roads than we do".

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