Non-horse powered vehicles go back as far as 1672, when Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China, developed the first working steam-powered vehicle. Since then, the industry has dramatically changed.
As the industry takes its next turn in the evolution of the automobile, governments around the world are also tapping into this space with investments and new legislation.
CBR lists the work of five governments around the world in the autonomous and driverless car space.
The UK is trying to revive its automotive industry by being at the forefront of the development of smart cars.
Last June, the government’s Department for Transport in consultation with the UK Autodrive Consortium, Venturer and GATEway consortia, launched the world’s first code of practice for driverless cars, clearing some roads in London, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes for testing.
The Autodrive Consortium, which received £10 million from the UK Government to work on the introduction of driverless cars, said it aims to make the UK a global hub for the technology. The code of practice states that at least 30 seconds of data must always be available and that pods like LUTZ need to have someone who can remotely control them at all times.
It also said that humans should always be in the car and that in case of incident, the driver (or remote controller) will be held responsible.
In July, Downing Street announced £20 million aimed at the development of driverless cars, in what ministers hailed as a major boost for the British motor industry.
Documents last December have also shown that the UK government has held up to five face-to-face meetings with Google to discuss driverless cars. The files showed a deep interest by Google in the UK, , suggesting that the company sees the UK as a key market for this segment.
With a potential new 320,000 jobs and £51 billion market for the UK, the government is looking towards making Britain great again in the automotive space.
The US has a long history of being a pioneer in the automotive industry. In 1903, with Henry Ford, Americans had the opportunity to get their first car at an affordable price.
Today, the country is in the midst of yet another revolution in the automotive space. With Silicon Valley being a hub to technology firms, it has also become a sanctuary for smart cars.
With this in mind, President Barack Obama’s administration has this January unveiled plans to invest as much as $4 billion in the sector over the next ten years.
The government is planning to speed up roll outs on the country’s roads and is open to review the legislation around driverless cars that currently restrict them from driving on public roads for at least three years (with exception to Google’s smart cars on some roads of California).
Anthony Foxx, US secretary of transportation, has said that the government will propose new principles of "safe operation for fully autonomous vehicles" within six months.
Foxx labelled the automotive advancements as a "new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people".
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is very much focused on ensuring his country stays ahead in the car race. In November 2015, Mr Abe took to a public road in what was the nation’s first autonomous driving test.
The administration has set aside $400 million to boost Japan’s digital economy, including smart cars. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism wants the country to be ahead and plans to have autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020, in time for the next Olympic Games.
Mr Abe said at the time of the trial: "In particular, in tough driving conditions such as tight curves and lane changing using autonomous driving, I think our Japanese technologies are among the world’s best."
Starting this March, 50 people living in Fujisawa will be included in a large scale roll out of driverless robotic technology. The ‘Robot Taxi’, developed by ZMP and DeNA, will be transporting people for distances of up to 3km in the city’s main roads.
Apart from using the vehicles in Tokyo 2020, the government is also looking to the technology has a way of bringing down the number of fatal car accidents, cause mostly by its aged population.
The small city-nation of Singapore is a giant when it comes to technology, and its administration is also aware of the benefits of embracing a smart car fleet.
The Ministry of Transport wants to reduce the number of paved roads to build new parks and meeting places across the city, and believes driverless cars will be able to help.
The government has plans to build underground driving ways and use driverless pods to transport its citizens from A to B.
The Ministry has also entered a memorandum of understanding with port operator PSA, Sentosa Development and ST Engineering, to have two driverless shuttles transporting people in the Bay area of the city.
The government is also backing other roll outs, such as the one by the Nanyang Technological University who has been road-testing a tourist driverless car in the city.
In November, the city of Adelaide became the first in the Southern Hemisphere to conduct a driverless car test drive by Volvo.
With such cars potentially taking to the Australian roads by 2020, the government of the South Australian State has introduced in the Parliament new laws that make it easier for car manufacturers to test their vehicles on the state’s roads.
The Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan introduced the Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill which provides exemptions from existing laws to allow trials of automated vehicle technology on public roads.
Companies looking to trial technologies on the state’s roads will have to submit detailed plans to the Government for approval, have sufficient insurances to protect the public, and still be subject to penalties for breaching road laws outside the scope of the trial.
The legislation also requires notice of any trials to be published at least one month in advance on the Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website, and a full report to be tabled before both houses of parliament within six months of the completion of the trial.
"We are on the cusp of the biggest advance in motoring since the since the Model T opened up car ownership to the masses," Mr Mullighan said.