If you live in the United Kingdom and you happen to see a Nissan Leaf cruise past you with no one behind the wheel, fear not; it hasn't been hijacked by a terrorist. It's for science!

The UK's Department for Transport (that's very British-sounding, right?) this week gave the OK for researchers at Oxford University to test driverless cars on public roads. A trial run of the cars will begin later this year, reports TechHive.

The project, cleverly called RobotCar, employs Leaf EVs that have been modified to be semi-autonomous. A driver will typically be present, but the cars are capable of operating independently.

With the government's approval to test on public roads, the UK is now a bit ahead of the curve on driverless cars compared to the U.S. A few states like Nevada, California, and Florida have cleared companies like Google and now Audi to test driverless cars on public roads, but it's still not widespread here yet as the federal government continues to contemplate how to do it.


Maybe the U.S. will ramp it up now in a fit of colonial jealousy.