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Self-driving cars hit Great Britain's roads for the first time

They're being sent out in a very limited capacity, but it's a first nevertheless.


Only a handful of countries have seen autonomous cars on their roads, and now the UK can add its name to that list.

The first autonomous car to grace Britain's roadways isn't like your average production vehicle. Built by engineering firm RDM Group, based off a Renault and packing technology from the University of Oxford's Oxbotica spinoff, these two-seater pods are rather sci-fi. It's electric, naturally, with a range of about 40 miles.

The car hit the road in Milton Keynes, in the south of England, Reuters reports. Its goal was proper interaction with ordinary citizens. Moving at a blistering clip of 5 mph, the car made its way around town, stopping for pedestrians along its path. Milton Keynes was chosen for this pilot project due to its extensive bike paths and wide swaths of pavement.

Plenty of preparation preceded this historic drive. Organizers mapped the town and worked with the town council on local safety planning. After all, the trial will be repeated across the country as Britain seeks to attract autonomous vehicle developers from around the world. Both Ford and Jaguar Land Rover hope to run programs in the country, as well.

By next year, the project's organizers hope to have some 40 of these pods traversing roads in Milton Keynes. In the country's latest budget, former chancellor George Osborne said the UK will be prepared for autonomous motorway testing next year, which means testing cars in situations a bit more severe than 5-mph jaunts around town. The country will also need to work out how to determine fault in collisions and other regulatory hurdles that still stand in the way.