Self-driving vehicles get green light

Motorists could see self-driving vehicles on British roads for the first time later this year, following a landmark call for evidence on automated lane keeping system technology.

Intended for use on a motorway in slow traffic, ALKS is designed to enable a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane, while maintaining the ability to easily and safely return control to the driver when required.

It is hoped that the technology will improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85% of accidents.

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said the move represented a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable, but that ensuring safety is key.

“…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. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.

“Self-driving technology in cars, buses and delivery vehicles could spark the beginning of the end of urban congestion, with traffic lights and vehicles speaking to each other to keep traffic flowing, reducing emissions and improving air quality in our towns and cities.”

These developments raise numerous questions around risk, insurance and liability. Transport and mobility research group, the Transport Research Laboratory commented: “We have begun a decade of considerable change for the automotive industry. To ensure the continued safety of road users, it is critical that all stakeholders – from collision investigators to insurers – maintain pace with technological change and evolve in tandem. A new automotive environment is coming, and all sectors involved in transport must begin preparations now.”

Today’s announcement comes as a consultation on The Highway Code rules is launched to ensure the first wave of this technology is used safely and responsibly. The consultation will conclude on 28th May 2021.

Image courtesy Jaguar Land Rover

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