EU Commission drives home merits of autonomous vehicles

Can driverless cars chauffeur people to a love of the EU? The European Commission is betting it can.

Christmas came early for automated driving enthusiasts this week. Convening a two-day summit in Brussels on the subject – the first of its kind – the European Commission promised a sack of goodies in the form of dedicated funding, regulatory changes, cross-border agreements and innovation stimulus.

Driverless trucks could be a reality on European motorways within two years, officials said. They would first operate in convoys where the first truck is driven by a human being but all the trucks following are driverless.

It’s the first step in a roadmap, to be published by the Commission as part of its transport strategy on 31 May, that could see driverless cars integrated with traffic by 2025.

“Owning a non-autonomous car will soon be like owning a horse,” said Carlos Moedas, the EU commissioner for research, science and innovation, who spoke at the conference.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has identified driverless vehicles as an area where the EU can deliver tangible benefits to citizens. In his five-scenario white paper on the future of Europe, released last month ahead of the EU’s 60th anniversary summit in Rome, connected and autonomous driving (CAD) was used repeatedly as an example of something that cannot become a reality without the EU.

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