GREEN LIGHT FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS: The Dutch government has approved a plan for large-scale testing of self-driving cars, such as Mercedes-Benz autonomous S-Class pictured here, and trucks on public roads. Image: MERCEDES-BENZ
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The Dutch government on Friday (Jan 23 2015) approved large-scale testing of self-driving cars and trucks on public roads, saying the technology could greatly reduce traffic jams and improve road safety.
Infrastructure and environment ministry spokeswoman, Marianne Wuite, said: "The cabinet has agreed to adjust road rules to enable large-scale testing of self-driving trucks and cars on public roads. The Netherlands is to become a test-bed for self-driving vehicles.
"Large-scale testing is planned to start in the (northern) summer after the changes to legislation are approved in parliament."
FIRST CARS, NOW TRUCKS
The first such test took place in early November 2014 on the A10 highway outside Amsterdam; a groundbreaking test involving self-driving trucks is planned for early February 2015.
The tests were, however, exceptions; until now research has been largely confined to private locations because of traffic rules.
The ministry said: "With changes in the current legislation, the Dutch transport authority will be able to grant permission for large-scale testing."
The Netherlands is notorious for traffic jams. Some 2.5-million drivers in a country of 17-million take to its roads during the rush hour each day, according to the Central Statistics Office's latest figures. Now the government believes self-driving vehicles could change all that.
"Vehicles that can talk to each other, brake and accelerate at the same time will help smooth the traffic flow," it said. Self-driving cars make roads safer, are more efficient, "better for the environment and people's wallets".