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December 14, 2015

Gov’t, Google driverless car meetings revealed by FOI

News: UK seen by company’s execs as a key market for driverless cars.

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Reports have emerged that Google has held up to five face-to-face meetings with the British government to discuss driverless cars and the UK approach to the topic.

The meetings with the Department for Transport (DfT) occurred over the last two years between January 2014 and July 2015, according to documents under the Freedom of Information Act obtained by the Telegraph.

The files show a deep interest by Google in including the UK in its driverless car venture, suggesting that the company sees the UK as a key market for this segment. However, it is still unclear if the company will be extending its trials – currently taking place in California – to Britain.

Google execs have described the UK as a leader in developing laws for driverless cars.

In July, the UK government announced £20 million of funding for the development of driverless cars and vehicles, in what ministers hailed as a major boost for the British motor industry.

According to the documents, attendees at one of the meetings included Sarah Hunter, head of policy at Google X. She said: "[Google is] very positive about the non-regulatory approach being taken in the UK [which] places the UK in a good position and could be seen as an example of best practice.

"The UK "has shown remarkable leadership in this area.The development of innovative insurance models is an area for UK leadership and a question Google are interested in".

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According to the meeting’s minutes, Michael Hurwitz, the DfT’s head of technology, emphasised the government’s "desire to work with Google to ensure the UK stays ahead."

Several parts of the documents have been blanked to protect commercial interests, according to the paper.

Google unveiled its first driverless car in 2012, and since then has travelled over one million miles on public roads. Other tech giants like Apple and Samsung are also tapping into the smart car segment.

 

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