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Driverless cars hit the streets of Milton Keynes in unmanned trial

The first driverless car trials in the UK are set to go ahead today in Milton Keynes, overseen by a team of top scientists.

The head boffins at the University of Oxford, and its subsidiary Oxbotica, will lead the driverless car trials in Milton Keynes. The goal is to learn how the driverless two-man pods will navigate obstacles like junctions, roundabouts and pedestrianised zones – all without human assistance.

Watch: Is Tesla autopilot safe?

Scientists from the Oxford Robotics Institute have already mapped the streets and roads of the town. The hope of the trial is that the pods will use cameras and Lidar – a laser based detection system – to navigate Milton Keynes grid based street network.

Related: Death by driverless cars – who’s to blame when it all goes wrong?

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark said: “Today’s first public trials of driverless vehicles in our towns is a ground-breaking moment.” He’s highly optimistic about the future market potential of autonomous cars, believing that “autonomous vehicles present huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms”. What’s more, he reckons there’s plenty of scope for using the tech in other areas, outside of car travel.

The autonomous trials can’t start soon enough, though. Currently, hopes are that driverless cars will start rolling out in the UK from 2020. Although a number of recent incidents, involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, could well set that back.

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