The use of autonomous cars has come a step closer after the Department for Transport (DfT) launched a call for evidence to help shape how new systems could be used on GB roads.
The call for evidence will look at the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) – an automated system that can take over control of the vehicle at low speeds, keeping it in lane on motorways.
The technology is designed to enable drivers to delegate the task of driving to the vehicle. When activated, the system keeps the vehicle within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything. The driver must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.
The government is seeking views from industry on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of this system to pave the way towards introducing it safely in Great Britain, within the current legal framework.
The call for evidence will ask whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.
The call for evidence also seeks views on government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at speeds of up to 70mph.
Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: “Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists and the UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies.
“The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this call for evidence could be a significant step forward for this exciting technology.”
Following the approval of ALKS Regulation in June 2020 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – of which the UK is a member – the technology is likely to be available in cars entering the UK market from spring 2021.
AA president Edmund King said: “Over the last 50 years, leading edge in-car technology from seat belts to airbags and ABS has helped to save thousands of lives.
“The government is right to be consulting on the latest collision-avoidance system which has the potential to make our roads even safer in the future.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Automated technologies for vehicles, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade.
“This advanced technology is ready for roll out in new models from as early as 2021, so today’s announcement is a welcome step in preparing the UK for its use, so we can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.”
Later this year the DfT is planning to launch a public consultation on the detail of any changes to legislation and The Highway Code that are proposed, which will include a summary of responses from this call for evidence.