Government paves way for self-driving cars on UK roads

Published:  28 April, 2021

Self-driving vehicles on British have come a step closer with the Department for Transport announcing today (28 April 2021) that vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) will be allowed on UK roads later this year.

Following a call for evidence on the subject, the government has set out how vehicles fitted with ALKS could legally be defined as self-driving, as long as they receive GB Type Approval and that there is no evidence to challenge the vehicle’s ability to self-drive. A consultation on The Highway Code rules in relation to the self-driving cars has also been launched. This will conclude on 28 May 2021.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better. But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like

“Not only are automated vehicles expected to improve road safety, the technology could also improve access to transport for people with mobility issues and lead to more reliable public transport services, helping to level-up access to transport in historically disconnected and rural areas.”

She added: “As we build back better, connected and autonomous vehicle technology could create around 38,000 new jobs in a UK industry that could be worth £42 billion by 2035. Over 80% of these jobs are expected to be in professional, technical and skilled trade occupations.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes observed: “The automotive industry welcomes this vital step to permit the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put Britain in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology. Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error.

“Technologies such as Automated Lane Keeping Systems will pave the way for higher levels of automation in future – and these advances will unleash Britain’s potential to be a world leader in the development and use of these technologies, creating essential jobs while ensuring our roads remain among the safest on the planet.”

Hayley Pells from Avia Sports Cars added: “The news about ALKS means we are a long way off truly autonomous driving, but is an exciting step towards learning what this technology can do for us. The TUC released information pre-pandemic that we spent around an hour a day commuting. As we exit lock down, working smarter has become more focused and I know I could certainly do with an extra hour a day.”

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