Self-driving vehicles could be allowed to drive on British roads by the end of 2021, the Department for Transport has revealed.
Following a call for evidence, 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 technology is designed to improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85% of accidents. The driver will be able to hand control over to the vehicle, which will constantly monitor speed and keep a safe distance from other cars.
“This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK,” said transport minister Rachel Maclean. “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 powerhouse.
“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.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), added: “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.”
Earlier this year, British multinational oil and gas company BP has completed an autonomous vehicle trial at its Lingen refinery in Germany.