Self-driving vehicles could be in use on British roads for the first time later this year, the Department for Transport has announced.
The government has set out how vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology 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.
Designed for use on a motorway in slow traffic, ALKS enables a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane, while maintaining the ability to easily and safely return control to the driver when required.
The DfT announcement coincided with the launch of a consultation on The Highway Code rules to ensure the first wave of this technology is used safely and responsibly. This consultation 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. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “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.”