UK Motorists are bracing themselves for self-driving vehicles on our roads for the first time later on this year, the Department for Transport recently announced.
After a new landmark call for evidence, the Government has laid out how vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology can legally be labelled as self-driving, on the understanding that they receive GB type approvals and there is no evidence that challenges the self-drive ability of the vehicle.
ALKS was designed for use on a motorway in slow traffic, enabling a vehicle to steer itself in a single lane, while keeping the ability to safely and easily return control to the driver when needed.
The DfT state the technology can improve road safety by the reduction of human error, which they say is the reason for over 85% of accidents. The driver can hand control over to the vehicle, which will always monitor speed and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles on the road.
The announcement today comes as a consultation on The Highway Code rules is started to make sure the first stage of this technology is used in a safe and responsible way. This consultation concludes 28th May 2021.
Rachel Maclean, Transport Minister stated: “This is a massive step on the path for the safe use of self-driving vehicles within the UK, making journeys in the future greener, easier and much more reliable.
“But we must absolutely make sure that this amazing new tech is used safely, which is why we are going through a consultation process on what the rules to allow this will look like. In doing so, we will improve transport for everyone, whilst securing the UK’s place as a superpower in global science.”
Self-driving tech in taxis, buses and vans could kick start the beginning of the end of congestion, the DfT believes that is traffic lights and vehicles are speaking to each other to keep traffic flowing, it will reduce emissions and improve air quality throughout towns and cities.
Not only are self-driving vehicles expected to vastly improve road safety, the DfT also believes technology could improve access to transport for disabled people and further lead to a more reliable public transport service, helping to power-up access to transport rural areas that have been historically disconnected.
A representative for the DfT said: “As we build better, connected and autonomous vehicle solutions, we could create around 38,000 new jobs in a new UK industry that is predicted to be worth £42 billion by the year 2035. Around 80% of these new jobs are expected to be in technical, skilled trade and professional occupations.”
SMMT Chief Exec, Mikey Hawes, said: “The automotive industry already welcomes this crucial step to permit the safe use of automated vehicles on UK roads, putting Britain in the forefront of road safety and automotive tech. Automated driving systems are estimated to prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 4,000 lives over the next 10 years through their ability to help reduce the single biggest cause of road accidents, which is human error.
“Auto-Lane-Keeping-Systems and other new technologies will pave the way for even greater levels of automation in the future – and these advances will further unleash Britain’s potential to be seen as a world leader in the development and practice of these technologies, creating a stream of new essential jobs while maintaining our roads remain among the safest in the world.”