Self-driving vehicles could be allowed on UK roads this year, government suggests

Self-driving vehicles could be allowed on UK roads this year, government suggests

The government has said that self-driving vehicles could be permitted on the country’s roads by the end of the year.

The Department for Transport said that the first type of hands-free driving to be legalised would be automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS).

This technology controls the speed and position of a car in a single lane – but only up to speeds of 37mph.

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.”

After a consultation was carried out last year, the government has now confirmed that vehicles equipped with ALKS technology can be legally 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.”

The government confirmed that drivers will not be required to monitor the road or keep their hands on the wheel when the vehicle is driving itself.

However, the driver will need to stay alert and be on hand to take over the driving within 10 seconds when requested to do so by the system.

If the driver fails to respond, the vehicle will automatically put on its hazard lights to warn nearby vehicles, slow down and eventually stop.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said: “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.”

Currently, The Highway Code is consulting on what rules will be put into new laws to make sure the technology is used safely.

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