Updated 04:50 PM EDT, Sun, Sep 22, 2019

Driverless Cars to Debut in UK Next Year; Are Self-Driving Cars Awesome or Terrifying?

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It appears the world is more ready for driverless autos than perhaps previously thought -- or if not the world, at least Britain. The government in the UK has decided to allow driverless cars to begin testing on public roadways starting in January 2015.

Cities are also being encouraged to "compete" with one another to host the upcoming trials, which will take place in three separate towns. Ministers have also requested that the country's road regulations be thoroughly reviewed in order to help eliminate any confusion for those working on the project.

According to the BBC, the Department for Transport had intended for driverless cars to begin trials on public roads near the end of 2013. It is unclear exactly why the trial has been pushed back this far. 

Vince Cable, Business Secretary, spoke regarding the details of the new initiative at a facility owned by Mira, an automotive company from the Midlands. 

"Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society," Cable declared. 

Engineers have been working on driverless car projects in the UK for some time, yet concerns still remain about the legal and insurance regulations that have so far prevented the new cars from being driven on public roads.

Other countries have also been hard at work on self-driving vehicles. 

In the US, California, Nevada and Florida have already approved the vehicles for testing. Google's driverless car has already driven 300,000 miles on California roads. 

Sweden has approved Volvo to being testing 100 driverless cars beginning in 2017. 

HOW DO THE CARS WORK?

Driverless cars, or self-driving cars, can handle the steering, accelerating, signaling and braking during essentially all of a drivers journey. They operate similarly to an airplane's autopilot system. 

One of the major innovations that makes driverless cars possible is Lidar (light detection and ranging), which "senses" what is in the car's immediate proximity by bouncing lasers off of nearby objects, and then analyzing the data. A car using Lidar will process millions of bits of information each second in order to have an adequate picture of what's around it. 

Self-driving cars can also use GPS location information from satellites; radar; ultrasonic sensors; and other sensors that determine the car's orientation and position of its wheels, in order to provide a better understanding its location. 

There is apparently some cause for concern, however. The FBI issued a warning recently, stating that driverless cars could pose a threat, should people decide to use them as a weapon.

According to the FBI, driverless vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car." 

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