Autonomous driving could be de rigueur on UK roads by next year


The UK government has announced it is taking steps forward in automated technology in vehicles with the launch of a call for evidence to shape how innovative new systems such as automated lane keeping could be used on British roads as soon as 2021.

The call for evidence will look at the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) – designed to enable drivers – for the first time ever – to delegate the task of driving to the vehicle. When activated, the automated system keeps the vehicle at low speed within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything, according to a government press releases.

The driver must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.

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The government is seeking views from industry on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of this system within the current legal framework.

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.

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 press release reads: “As automated technology in vehicles continues to improve, it must be used safely by drivers in the UK. By issuing a call for evidence we are giving those with information or concerns about ALKS technology an opportunity to help shape future policy.

In late 2020, we plan 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 to this call for evidence.”

The call also seeks views on government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at speeds of up to 70 miles-per-hour (about 110 km/h).

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.”

The government is acting now to ensure that regulation is ready where necessary for its introduction.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, 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.”

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