Thursday 17 April 2014

Look no hands - but do you want a driverless car?

Steve Mahan, who is registered blind, uses the Google driverless cars for trips in Silicon Valley after legislation was passed in California, Nevada and Florida Justin Sullivan/Getty

DRIVERS and passengers will be asked for their opinions on "driverless cars" before they are licensed for use here.

The Road Safety Authority is promising to hold a consult-ation process before allowing driverless cars to be tested on the roads.

Britain has given the go-ahead for them to be tested on roads -- as long as there is a driver in the vehicle in the event of an emergency. Google's driverless car has travelled over 500,000 miles in the USA without accident--about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing.

Driverless cars containing sensors and are guided by satellite navigation systems. They have been hailed as having the potential to reduce the 1.2 million people killed in car accidents every year worldwide. And they could even have benefits for rural pubs -- whose customers could take their car home without fear of failing the drink driving test.

However, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has adopted a cautious approach and warned that they are still a "long way off" in this country.

RSA spokesman Brian Farrell said the crucial issue would be safety. "There needs to be strong legislation to support it, not just in Ireland but in the EU as well," he said.

Such legislation would have to deal with issues such as whether a person in the car would still be legally liable if there was a minor or even fatal accident involving their driverless vehicle.

Changes would also have to be made to road safety regulations which refer to the driver "controlling the vehicle in motion". And any driverless cars going on the roads also have to get EU approval.

Mr Farrell promised there would be a public consultation process on driverless cars before any trials were carried out here.

Google Ireland spokeswoman Celine Crawford said the company currently had no plans to test its "Google Car" here. She said the company tested such technology in the USA and then rolled it out if it was a success.

California, Nevada and Florida have passed legislation to allow driverless cars.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is so far staying out of the debate on driverless cars, with his spokesman saying that the issue was being monitored by the RSA.

Irish Independent

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