TIME Congress

House Republicans Unveil Women’s Legislation in Push for Female Voters

Speaker Boehner And House GOP Leadership Address The Media After Their Weekly Conference
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens during a briefing at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington on March 5, 2014 Alex Wong—Getty Images

The party that was once against identity politics is learning to court the female vote

House Republicans on Wednesday will introduce a package of legislation aimed at helping “all Americans — particularly women — succeed at home and at work,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office told TIME exclusively. McMorris Rodgers has been spearheading the House effort to draft and introduce the measures for months. For a party that has loathed identity politics, the moment is an acknowledgment of how powerful female voters have become.

“As a wife, mom, and member of Congress, I am proud to promote legislative solutions that celebrate the extraordinarily positive role women play in all sectors of our economy,” McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 House Republican and the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership, tells TIME. “Simply put: these bills will make life better for millions of Americans.”

Democrats have focused almost their entire 2014 agenda around issues that affect female voters, from pay equity to increasing the minimum wage, which impacts women disproportionately. They are hoping that by turning out single women, a reliably Democratic group but one that doesn’t often turn out for midterm elections, they can keep the Senate from flipping.

Republicans are seeking to check that move by appealing to women themselves, and McMorris Rodgers’ pitch on Wednesday is part of that effort. The move, part of a coordinated GOP effort to woo women this year, is striking. Republicans have long eschewed identity politics and, aside from George W. Bush’s courtship of soccer and security moms, have never made such a push as seen this year to court an individual voting bloc.

The package consists of several bills the House has already passed that increase job training, incentivize flexible work schedules, tax breaks for children and families, and strengthens charter schools. Most of the bills have been DOA in the Senate in an election year, though in a less polarized time they might have drawn some support. Democrats have introduced several similar workplace flexibility bills. The package also includes some new legislation to prevent retaliation when women ask about equal pay, a bill that restores cuts to home Medicare health care services and Child Care and Development Block Grant legislation, a bipartisan bill that has already passed the Senate and would become law if passed by the House.

With more and more women working, flexibility for both parents has become an increasingly popular issue on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Three-fourths of women are in the workforce today, women manage over 80% of household income, and more than 60% of women with children under 6 are working, according to Labor Department statistics. “We absolutely believe that women should absolutely get equal pay for equal work,” McMorris Rodgers says. “If there’s discrimination taking place then laws need to be strengthened. Equal pay was passed in 1963, civil rights in 1964, it’s been the law of the land but we are looking at strengthening those laws … The workforce has changed. Our laws should too.” Democrats have brought up legislation mandating equal pay for women, but Republicans have shot down those bills as too onerous on employers, preferring a route that strengthens penalties on the back end.

Democrats have a 10-point advantage with women voters, according to a July Pew Research Center poll. While, conversely, Republicans have a 12-point edge with male voters, men turn out proportionately 10% less than female voters. All of which is to say, the female vote is much more powerful. The only time Republicans have won the female vote since 1984 — by less than 2 percentage points in 2010 — they took back the House and nearly flipped the Senate. Democrats, who hold a two-point lead in generic poll matchups, say the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and right-wing calls to impeach President Obama have helped bolster their case this year with women. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, says 60% of donations reaped by their $2.1 million anti-impeachment fundraising haul have come from women.

Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer have introduced their own flexible work legislation, and the Republican National Committee recently held a women’s summit to bolster candidate recruitment and training. The RNC also launched “14 in 14” a program, which recruits young women to volunteer at least 30 minutes of their time every week for the 14 weeks leading up to the midterm elections. They will recruit other volunteers, potential candidates, identify female voters, work phone banks and help get people to the polls on election day.

All of these GOP efforts are also pushback on Democratic assertions that Republicans are waging a “war on women,” trying to limit not only abortion rights, but access to contraception — a narrative the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that a private company’s owners could refuse to pay as part of employee health insurance certain kinds of contraception in the face of their Christian beliefs — plays into. The GOP made a coordinated effort over the past two years to train their candidates and members to speak more delicately about issues of rape and abortion after inopportune comments offending women by two GOP Senate candidates arguably cost the party control of the Senate in 2012.

At the same time, Republicans have countered with an emphasis on economic issues. An RNC poll out last month found that women voters care more about the economy and jobs than social issues. “Democrats have long tried to reduce women to single-issue voters, and Republican have consistently called them out for failing to respect the fact that women vote on a wide range of issues,” the RNC’s Sharon Day wrote in an op-ed on Real Clear Politics on June 24. “By relying on cynical political attacks like the ‘war on women’ that lack substance, Democrats have failed to provide women with solutions to our top concerns.”

McMorris Rodgers’ efforts dovetail with the broader GOP push to turn the conversation away from hot-button topics to areas where Republicans are stronger, and frankly more comfortable discussing, like the economy. But given the House’s crowded schedule, looking to pass a bill overhauling the Veterans Affairs Department, an $11 billion patch on transport ion infrastructure funding and dealing with the influx of child refugees, the legislation is unlikely to pass before they break on Friday for a five-week summer recess. “After 2010, women on the Democratic side looked at that and said, we’ve got to do something, and they came up with the ‘war on women,’” McMorris Rodgers tells TIME. “And unfortunately a couple of our guys weeks before the election in 2012 made some really outrageous comments that are not reflective of the entire Republican Party and yet were very damaging. So we have some work to do to build the trust and to make sure that people recognize that the policies that we’re promoting for men and women will empower them and make a better life for them.”

TIME Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s Top Ebola Doctor Dead After Contracting Virus

Sheikh Umar Khan, head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone, poses for a picture in Freetown on June 25, 2014 Umaru Fofana—Reuters

Sheikh Umar Khan fought on the front lines against Ebola and is credited with treating more than 100 victims

Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, Sheikh Umar Khan on Tuesday died from complications of the disease. His death came just days after three nurses who worked with him perished.

Khan served on the front lines of what is now considered the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with 670 dead, primarily in West Africa. He is credited with treating more than 100 victims and has previously been hailed as a national hero. Now, hundreds of condolences are pouring in on Twitter, praising his courage and altruism.

“Khan’s death is yet another recognition that health workers is the group most at risk,” Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman with World Health Organization, tells TIME. More than 100 health workers have contracted the virus since the beginning of the outbreak and around half of them have died. “This is the first time most of these workers face such an outbreak. We have to equip them with protective gear and train them on how to use it. We also need to make sure there are enough workers. If they work reasonable shifts they can focus not only on the patients, but also on themselves.”

Sierra Leone is the country that has been worst hit by the latest outbreak, but neighboring Liberia is also struggling since the contagion breached its borders. The country’s overland border crossings have been closed since Sunday, and Doctors Without Borders reports that they are only able to provide limited technical support to Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The fear is now that the deadly disease could also spread far beyond West Africa, possibly via air travelers. Medical services across Europe are on high alert because of the outbreak, and U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC that the disease is a “threat” to his country.

“There is a risk that the epidemic will spread, but first of all we need to stop it on the ground,” says Jasarevic. “We know exactly what needs to be done, but it requires a lot of resources.”

“We need more treatment centers and experts on the ground, and we need to communicate to communities and families to bring their victims to the centers as quickly as possible in order to increase their chance of survival. We need surveillance systems, safe transports for victims and equipment to carry out burials in a safe way.”

One small bit of good news: The current outbreak has proven to be less deadly than previous strands of the disease. Instead of a 90% mortality rate, 60% of the infected have died. And in some areas in Guinea, the situation has stabilized, with Doctors Without Borders even closing one of its Ebola treatment centers.

The battle against the contagion continues, even if now with one less of its premier soldiers.

TIME

China: Dozens Dead or Injured in Xinjiang ‘Terror,’ but Facts Are Few and Far Between

A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi
A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, China's Xinjiang region, on May 23, 2014 Stringer China—Reuters

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr festival

Some time on Monday, in a small town near China’s northwest frontier, dozens of people were injured or lost their lives. Two days later, we do not know who died, how they were killed or what sparked the violence. And with the area effectively sealed off by Chinese security forces, and the Internet up and down across the area, it is possible we never really will.

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr festival, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Chinese state media reported that dozens of civilians were killed or injured in a premeditated terrorist attack in Shache county (or Yarkand in the Uighur language). The news, which was not released until more than 24 hours after the incident, was cast as evidence of organized terrorism by ethnic Uighur extremists. Their account suggests that knife-wielding mobs went on a rampage after officials discovered some explosives and foiled a terrorist plot that may or may not have been timed to coincide with a commodity fair.

An account by the nonprofit Radio Free Asia (RFA) paints an altogether different picture. Reporters for the outlet’s Uighur-language news service say dozens of “knife- and ax-wielding” ethnic Uighurs were shot by police in a riot sparked by restrictions during Ramadan. “There has been a lot of pent-up frustration over house-to-house searches and checking on headscarves [worn by Uighur women] during this Ramadan,” Alim Adurshit, a local official, told RFA. The report also mentioned the extrajudicial killing of a Uighur family — an incident that has not been reported by Chinese state press and that TIME has not independently confirmed.

The dueling narratives point to the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, is happening in China’s vast and restless northwest. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the incident took place, is contested space. It is both claimed as the homeland of the mostly Muslim, Turkic Uighur people, and also as Chinese territory. In recent years, the area has seethed with unrest attributed, depending on whom you ask, to Islamic terrorism, separatism or heavy-handed repression by the state. For years now, a small minority has fought against the government, usually by targeting symbols of state power, including police stations and transport hubs.

The past year has been particularly bloody. In October, an SUV plowed through crowds of tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five — including three inside the vehicle — and injuring dozens. Chinese authorities said the vehicle was driven by ethnic Uighurs, but revealed little else. In March, a group of knife-wielding attackers slashed and stabbed their way through a train station in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, killing 29. The government blamed that incident, and two subsequent attacks in the regional capital, Urumqi, on separatists from Xinjiang.

Beijing has responded by doubling down on already aggressive security measures and their campaign of forced cultural integration. Across the region, town squares are now patrolled by armed security personnel in riot gear, and villages are sealed off by police checkpoints. Ethnic Uighurs are stopped and searched. Meanwhile, the government has stepped up limits on religious practice by, for instance, putting age restrictions on mosque visits and banning students and government workers from fasting during Ramadan.

In the context of this division and distrust, it makes sense that there are competing claims. The trouble is, China prevents outsiders from gathering information on their own. The foreign press corps is, by virtue of China’s rules, based far from Xinjiang, primarily in the Han-majority cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Travel to Xinjiang, while not officially forbidden, is effectively restricted. When I visited Urumqi and Hotan in late May, security personnel harassed my Chinese colleague, questioned me, followed our movements and stopped us from traveling to the city of Kashgar.

The ruling Communist Party’s powers of information control are also a factor. On a good day, China’s Great Firewall makes it difficult for citizens to share information that censors might consider politically sensitive; other days, it is impossible. Following the violent suppression of the 2009 riots in Urumqi, the government effectively turned off the region’s Internet for nine months. There are reports the web is off and on again now, which may help explain why so little has emerged in terms of firsthand accounts or photographic evidence.

Overseas-based Uighur groups say until there is transparency, the public should not trust the state’s account. “China does not want the world to know what occurred on Monday,” said Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association, in statement. “As little is known of the circumstances of their killing, due to tight restrictions on information, UAA seeks an open investigation into the incident and the loss of dozens of lives.”

With every instance of violence, that looks less likely to happen.

TIME Canada

Canada Accuses Chinese Hackers of Cyberattack

Canada singles out China for a cyberattack on the government's leading research body at a time when Ottawa hopes to increase its oil sales to Beijing

In an unprecedented move, Canada accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating a computer network at the National Research Council on Tuesday, although Beijing denied responsibility for the assault.

Canadian officials lodged an official complaint to Beijing that state-backed hackers penetrated the council — the government’s primary research body that works with many companies, including major manufacturing firms. “The government takes this issue very seriously, and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa,” said Caitlin Workman, a Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Department spokeswoman, according to Bloomberg.

Yang Yudong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, told Reuters that the claims against Beijing were based on “groundless speculation.”

China has garnered a slew of media attention for reported cyberattacks, most recently by a New York Times report revealing that Chinese hackers broke into a U.S. government agency in March, but this is the first time that Canada has accused Beijing of hacking. Canada’s claim of the security breach also comes at a time when the country is hoping to bolster its oil sales to China.

The council’s computers are being quarantined from the rest of the government system as a precaution. “We have no evidence that data compromises have occurred on the broader government of Canada network,” Corinne Charette, Canada’s chief government information officer, said in a statement, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

TIME India

About 150 May Be Trapped in Landslide in India

A landslide hit the village of Ambe in Pune district, Maharashtra state, and buried about 40 houses

(NEW DELHI) — A landslide hit a village in western India following torrential rains Wednesday, sweeping away scores of houses and burying more than 150 people, an official said.

Federal rescue workers were being hampered by continuing rains and poor roads leading to the village of Ambe in Pune district in Maharashtra state, where the landslide buried about 40 houses, said local commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh.

“There are constraints. It’s a hilly area and heavy rains are still continuing,” Deshmukh told CNN-IBN.

Residents began the work of clearing the debris, he added.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

The Pune district about is 151 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital. The nearest medical center is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the village.

TIME Syria

Syrian Government Increases Barrel Bombing, Rights Group Claims

A civil-defense member looks for survivors at a site hit by what activists said were two barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad in the Syrian city of Aleppo on July 27, 2014 Hamid Khatib—Reuters

Human Rights Watch calls on Russia and China to quit blocking action against the regime, as U.N. Security Council meets on Wednesday

The Syrian government has increased its use of barrel bombs since the U.N. passed a resolution on Feb. 22 ordering all parties to the conflict in Syria to end this and other indiscriminate use of weapons on civilians, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims. The rights group now calls on the U.N. Security Council to take immediate action as it meets on Wednesday for its fifth round of reports on the resolution.

“Month after month, the Security Council has sat idly by as the government defied its demands with new barrel-bomb attacks on Syrian civilians,” HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement. “Russia and China need to allow the Security Council to show the same resolve and unanimity it brought to the issue of humanitarian aid to call a halt to these deadly attacks on civilians.”

Barrel bombs are large oil drums, gas cylinders or other containers filled with explosives and scrap metal, which are released from helicopters. On detonation, they tend to create more substantial destruction of buildings than other types of air strikes and artillery fire. The use of barrel bombs in Syria picked up in December last year, when over 500 people were killed by the devices in Aleppo.

HRW has documented over 650 new damage sites consistent with barrel-bomb impacts in Aleppo neighborhoods held by groups fighting the Syrian government in the 140 days since the U.N. resolution was enacted — 270 more sites than what was documented in the preceding 113 days. Now the group urges the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on all groups implicated in widespread or systematic human-rights abuses, as well as sanctions against individuals implicated in these violations.

They especially call attention to the obstruction of Security Council action by Russia and China, which in May also vetoed a resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

“Barrel bombs, car bombs, and indiscriminate mortar fire are killing thousands of Syrians — many times the number of those who lost their lives in chemical-weapon attacks,” said Whitson. “What will it take to get Russia and China to allow the Security Council to enforce its own words, and take real steps to address these unlawful attacks?”

TIME medicine

World’s First Malaria Vaccine Could Be a Year Away

A Thai public-health official places a thermometer into a child's mouth at a malaria clinic in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, on Oct. 26, 2012 Sukree Sukplang—Reuters

Researchers published promising findings, while a pharmaceutical company applied for the first-ever regulatory approval of malaria vaccine

The world’s first malaria vaccine may just be a year away, after a thorough trial of a new drug showed promising results.

PLOS Medicine on Tuesday published a study, in which researchers found that for every 1,000 children who received the vaccine, 800 cases of illness could be prevented. The children also retained protection 18 months after being injected.

Now, pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has applied the drug for regulatory approval — the first time a malaria vaccine has reached this stage.

“This is a milestone,” Sanjeev Krishna, professor of molecular parasitology and medicine at St. George’s, University of London, who reviewed the paper for the journal, told the BBC. “The landscape of malaria-vaccine development is littered with carcasses, with vaccines dying left, right and center. We need to keep a watchful eye for adverse events, but everything appears on track for the vaccine to be approved as early as next year.”

Around 800,000 people die from malaria every year, most of them children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa. Several African countries were involved in the trial of the new vaccine, which is developed by GSK in cooperation with the nonprofit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative, for which they have received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

TIME Gaza

Shells Hit U.N. School in Gaza, Kill 15

Palestinians collect human remains from a classroom inside a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp after the area was hit by shelling on July 30, 2014.
Palestinians collect human remains from a classroom inside a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp after the area was hit by shelling on July 30, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Israeli tank shells hit a U.N. school in Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians sought refuge, leaving 15 dead and 90 injured

(JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip) — Israeli tank shells slammed into a crowded U.N. school sheltering Gaza war refugees Wednesday, killing 15 Palestinians and wounding 90 after tearing through two classroom walls, a health official and a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

The strike in the Jebaliya refugee camp came amid Israel’s heaviest air and artillery assault in more than three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting. Tuesday marked the deadliest day so far, with 128 Palestinians killed, according to a Gaza health official.

The overall Palestinian death toll rose to at least 1,258, with more than 7,100 wounded, said the health official, Ashraf al-Kidra. Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

On Wednesday, the military said it hit 75 sites, including five mosques it claimed were being used by militants. At the same time, intense tank shelling was reported in some areas, including in Jebaliya.

Tank shells hit a U.N. school in the camp early Wednesday, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools in Gaza.

Starting at around 4:30 a.m., several shells hit the compound of the Abu Hussein school, a few minutes apart, said the principal, Fayez Abu Dayeh. He said shells hit two classrooms and a bathroom.

In one of the classrooms, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole into the ceiling of a second floor class-room.

About two hours after the strike, hundreds of people still crowded the courtyard, some dazed, others wailing.

Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56, sat on the ground with her relatives, just a few meters from the destroyed classroom.

“Where will we go?” she asked. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home and two who were struck in the street after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The bodies of two members of the al-Najar family, 56-year-old Shaher and his 41-year-old brother, Bassem, were laid out in one of the rooms of their small home, surrounded by wailing relatives.

Outside the gate, another relative held on to his crying son, hugging him tight and saying: “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Al-Kidra, the health official, said at least 15 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the strike on the school.

Abu Hasna, the U.N. agency spokesman, said the international community must step in.

“It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them,” he said. “This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.”

The deadly strike came as Israel intensified its air and artillery assault on what it says are Hamas targets in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas military tunnels used for attacks in Israel.

For its part, Hamas has so far rejected cease-fire efforts unless its demands are met, including a lifting of a punishing blockade.

The military said that since fighting began July 8, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to the militants’ ability to launch rockets at Israel.

An army statement said that since Tuesday morning, troops have demolished three more tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel. Hamas has used such tunnels to sneak into Israel to carry out attacks.

The army said 32 tunnels have so far been located but did not say how many remain.

__

Enav reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City contributed to this report.

TIME Libya

Libyan Rebels Capture Special-Forces Base in Benghazi

A girl stands next to the wreckage of a government MiG warplane which crashed during Tuesday's fighting, in Benghazi
A Libyan girl stands next to the wreckage of a government MiG warplane that crashed during clashes in Benghazi, Libya, on July 29, 2014 Esam Al-Fetori —Reuters

Libya is quickly sliding into the realm of a failed state as rebel forces and Islamist militants battle against government troops

A special force’s base in Benghazi has fallen after a coalition of rebel militias and Islamist militants pounded the enclave with salvos of rocket fire and artillery.

“We have withdrawn from the army base after heavy shelling,” Libyan Saiqa Special Forces officer Fadel al-Hassi told Reuters.

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, has been home to fierce fighting between government special-forces troops and former rebel fighters from the Benghazi Shura Council who are now allied with the Islamist force Ansar al-Sharia, according to Reuters.

Since the ousting of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, the country has gone through periods of perennial chaos, as the militias who overthrew the regime have refused to give up their arms and Islamic groups have steadily grown more powerful.

Earlier this month, heavy fighting among rebel bands near the capital resulted in the closure of Tripoli International Airport after rockets crashed into the facility, killing one person and damaging at least a dozen planes.

Late last week, the U.S. embassy in the capital was evacuated and shuttered amid the increasing unrest. Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department issued an official travel advisory, warning American citizens to avoid any trips to the conflict-riven country.

“The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution,” read the notice. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.”

TIME United Kingdom

Driverless Cars to Hit Public Roads in Britain by January 2015

A Google self-driving vehicle drives around the parking lot at the Computer History Museum after a presentation in Mountain View, California
A Google self-driving vehicle roams around the parking lot at the Computer History Museum after a presentation in Mountain View, Calif., on May 13, 2014 Stephen Lam—Reuters

On Wednesday, the British government will announce its plans to test autonomous vehicles on public roads by January 2015, but first the Highway Code will need to be revised to allow the driverless cars on the streets

Driverless cars will be hitting British streets for test runs by January 2015 — the British government plans to announce on Wednesday — although the Highway Code will need to be revised to allow for the changes, industry experts say.

The self-driving cars for civilians will be an extension of ones already used by the British army, which are provided by MIRA, a vehicle-engineering and design company.

Britain’s trial of autonomous cars will join the ranks of other countries such as Singapore, Japan and Germany, which have already started testing driverless vehicles on public roads, Sky News reports. Google also recently unveiled plans to test out prototypes of its computerized automobile, which has no steering wheel or pedals, in California this summer.

Google says the autonomous vehicles will “shoulder the entire burden of driving,” the Telegraph reports. Despite the convenience that will be offered by the driverless vehicles, safety on the road remains a prevailing concern for British politicians and civilians.

Suzie Mills, a lawyer at the British law firm Ashfords, told Sky News that the government will have the onus of “clarifying exactly where responsibility sits,” for consumers and insurance companies in the case of an accident.

While the autonomous car remains a work in progress, the British government seems to be taking the high road by allowing consumers the option of maintaining control over the car. A government statement released earlier this month said, “Fully autonomous cars remain a further step, and for the time being drivers will have the option (and responsibility) of taking control of the vehicle themselves. Vehicle manufacturers and their systems suppliers continue to explore the opportunities for full autonomy,” the Telegraph reports.

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