Commercially available driverless cars are expected to be used on UK roads in the next four years, according to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

Speaking at the Association of British Insurers’ annual conference in London yesterday, Grayling laid out his vision of an autonomous future, claiming that autonomous cars ‘represent an unprecedented leap forward’ for the automotive sector.

‘I expect the first self-driving cars to reach the market – and to be used on UK roads – by 2021,’ he said. ‘The government is already taking steps to make this happen and consulting with industry partners for their views.

‘Future generations will see motoring with a driver at the wheel controlling a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine as merely a quaint stepping stone on the journey to cleaner, fully autonomous and more efficient road transport.’

Chris Grayling

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Grayling also claimed that an autonomous fleet of cars could reduce delays by up to 40 percent, and make motoring safer by eliminating human error, which he said was responsible for more than 85 percent of British road accidents.

However, the minister, who is the MP for Epsom and Ewell, in Surrey, appeared to state that the government’s desire to become a hub for autonomous vehicle development was mainly financial.

‘It is estimated that the market for autonomous vehicles could be worth £28 billion to the UK by 2035,’ he said. ‘That’s why we are so committed to becoming a global leader in the design, development and use of autonomous vehicles.’

He also admitted that the legislation for driverless cars was not complete, and that there was not enough information available to discuss ‘wider issues’ surrounding the technology, but that over-regulation could harm Britain’s ‘position in the market’.

‘We know that there are still wider issues to be discussed – issues that can’t be settled until automated vehicle technology has evolved further.

‘Since we do not yet know how the technology will fully work, regulating early could diminish the benefits we want to achieve. It is imperative that we do not over regulate – or worse, regulate badly – while the technology is still developing. This could potentially result in regulation that is unsafe for the public, or compromise the UK’s position in the market.’

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Gallery: Driverless cars could be on UK roads by 2021