A £1.5m project to design and construct the first driverless vehicles to run in a UK city centre will be announced by the Government today.
The scheme would see autonomous pods run on special pathways in Milton Keynes which would be large enough to accommodate two people.
By 2015, an initial batch of 20 pods would be operated on lanes separated from pedestrians between Milton Keynes rail station and the city centre.
One hundred fully autonomous pods running on pathways alongside people and employing sensors to avoid obstacles could then be operational by 2017.
An initial batch of 20 of the pods could be operational by 2015.
The vehicles would travel at a maximum speed of 12mph and would allow passengers to check emails or read newspapers while travelling to their destination.
If successful, the scheme could be extended to other towns and cities across the UK.
Jon Beasley, programme director from the Transport Systems Catapult – one of the collaborators on the project – said the technology involved could be extended to cars on major roads.
He told Sky News: “People basically come into MK on the train and they want to go to the city centre, or there is a very large office community around the train station and they may actually during the day want to go into the city centre for a short period and come back.
“Basically it gives them the option to get to the city centre comfortably, safely, they can continue processing and doing work, reading emails, reading papers whilst they go to the city centre itself.
“So they don’t have to concentrate in the long term in how they drive these things.”
Google has already introduced driverless cars in California. They have driven more than 400,000 miles without a major crash.
Early collaborators on the Milton Keynes project include engineering firm Arup and Cambridge and Oxford universities.