U.K. Wants Large Numbers of Self-Driving Cars on the Road by 2021

The government will try to boost sales of electric cars, too.

Jaguar Land Rover

The U.K. government is proposing regulatory reforms in order to pave the way for self-driving cars. Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to announce plans to put a large number of self-driving cars on U.K. roads by 2021 this week, reports The Guardian.

The strategy is expected to include rule changes that allow for the testing of self-driving cars on public roads without humans onboard, as well as a provision related to liability. As with proposed self-driving car rules in the U.S., the goal is to remove potential regulatory roadblocks in order to increase the pace of autonomous-car testing.

Some companies are already testing self-driving cars on U.K. roads. Last week, Jaguar Land Rover announced the first public trials of its prototype self-driving cars, and an autonomous shuttle was tested in London. But the rule changes are designed to allow self-driving cars to operate more freely and to encourage more companies to put them on the road.

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The Drive

The move could help the U.K. government generate a positive narrative as it faces criticism for the potential economic impact of the "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union. A friendlier regulatory environment could also help the U.K. compete with the U.S. as a testing ground for self-driving cars, which could, in turn, stimulate economic development.

Besides encouraging development of self-driving cars, the government is also looking to boost sales of electric cars, the proposed budget includes a 400 million pound ($529 million) fund for the construction of charging stations, and a 100 million pound ($132 million) incentive package to lower the cost of electric cars for consumers. Given that the U.K. is considering ending sales of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, those measures can't hurt.