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Law Changes Could See Driverless Cars on the Roads by Next Year

David Paul

,

UK Government

The UK Government is looking at plans to allow advanced lane-keeping systems in cars that would see hands-free driving on British roads for the first time.

The UK Government is reviewing the rules on autonomous vehicles on UK roads with the aim of making driving easier and safer and cutting accidents.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to review evidence using tech for automated driving at low speeds.

Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) technology allows a vehicle to remain within lanes without having to be operated and controls the car’s movements for extended periods. Drivers must still be present to take back control if needed.

ALKS tech has already been approved by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and the government hopes to have autonomous vehicles on the road as early as spring of next year.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean commented: “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.”

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It will be the first time that ALKS has been used to delegate the task to the vehicle, and the government is seeking views from industry to “help pave the way” towards introducing it safely in the UK within the current legal framework.

Evidence will also be collected seeking views on proposals to allow the safe use of the ALKS system at speeds of up to 70mph.

“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,” said Mike Hawes, Chief Executive Officer at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

“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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AA president Edmund King applauded the decision, saying that 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”.

Previous concerns have been raised over the use of automated vehicles on regular roads, with some worried it could be dangerous if it goes wrong.

As the technology of these vehicles improves, it must be “used safely by drivers in the UK,” the government said.

“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.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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