DRIVERS and passengers will be asked for their opinions on 'driverless cars' before they are licensed for use here.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is promising to hold a public consultation process before any decision is made to allow driverless cars to be tested on the roads.
There is growing momentum behind driverless cars, with Britain giving the go-ahead for them to be tested on its public roads as long as there is a driver in the vehicle in the event of an emergency.
Google's driverless car has now driven more than 500,000 miles in the US without causing an accident – about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing.
Driverless cars containing sensors and guided by satellite navigation systems have been hailed as having the potential to reduce the 1.2 million people killed in car accidents every year worldwide. And they could have benefits for rural pubs whose customers could get home without fear of failing the drink driving test.However, the 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 the safety of driverless cars.
"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 the driver would still be legally liable if there was a minor or even fatal accident involving their driverless car. And any driverless cars going on the roads also have to get approval from the EU.
Mr Farrell promised there would be a public consultation process on driverless cars before any trials were carried out here. He said it would take some time before driverless cars become the norm on public roads.
"More development and trials will be required to help the technology mature and to prove the reliability of such systems to ensure that public safety is not compromised," he said.
Google Ireland spokeswoman Celine Crawford said the company currently had no plans to test its Google Car here.