Google’s Eric Schmidt says driverless cars could hit UK streets

Eric Schmidt said that officials had proposed bringing self-driving cars to a city in Britain and that “eventually we will all be in self-driving cars”, reports The Telegraph.

“One of [Britain’s] leaders suggested we pick a city and start testing there, so we are evaluating these things,” Mr Schmidt told The Telegraph at a Google event in Seoul.

“We have to get permission from the Government to have these things coexist, we have to go through country by country and state by state in the US, so we are working through that, it takes forever.”

Google has been building self-driving cars for more than six years, and driven over 1.4 million miles. So far, it has only been tested in the US, specifically cities in California, Texas and Washington, so the UK would be its first international testbed.

In December, The Telegraph revealed that Google had held five face-to-face meetings with the UK Department for Transport (DfT) in the last two years about autonomous vehicles. Sarah Hunter, the head of policy for Google’s experimental division, Google X, said in one of the meetings that the company was “very positive about the non-regulatory approach being taken in the UK [which] places the UK in a good position and could be seen as an example of best practice”.

Mr Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive and now the executive chairman of its parent company Alphabet, said that over 94pc of road traffic accidents stem from human error, and that driverless cars will be one of artificial intelligence’s biggest benefits to humanity.

“Eventually you will all be in a self driving  car in some form or another. It’s a combination of technology getting better, but also regulations have to evolve,” he said. “I haven’t met any people with eyes in the back of their head yet, but self-driving cars have eyes behind them. The car has better vision than you, it can see 360 degrees, and it doesn’t get drunk. So that has to be an improvement.”

Driverless cars can be legally trialled on public roads anywhere in the UK, as long as they are covered by insurance. Last May George Osborne said £100m will be ploughed into automated car systems over the next five years, with trials underway in Milton Keynes, Greenwich, Bristol and Coventry.

The Chancellor is expected to confirm another round of funding for an initiative testing driverless lorries on the M6 in next week’s Budget.