New law ‘a major step’ towards autonomous vehicles appearing in the UK

New law ‘a major step’ towards autonomous vehicles appearing in the UK
The new Automated Vehicles (AV) Act could see self-driving cars appear on UK roads by 2026.

Announced in the King’s Speech, the AV Act is part of the Government’s plans to increase road safety,

Department for Transport (DfT) data shows that human error contributes to 88% of road collisions – and the introduction of autonomous vehicles will lead to a reduction in that number.

According to the new law, manufacturers will require their range of self-driving vehicles to achieve a level of safety ‘at least as high as careful and competent human drivers’.

They will also need to meet the current standard of road safety checks for other road legal vehicles.

As a part of the announcement, DfT stated that this move would aim to reduce deaths and injuries from drink driving, speeding, and tiredness.  

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry, which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.  

“While this doesn’t take away people’s ability to choose to drive themselves, our landmark legislation means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026, in a real boost to both safety and our economy.”

This is the latest development for the autonomous driving sector in the UK, as the new act follows recent successful self-driving trials.

Tech firms Wayve and Oxa are trialling self-driving cars in London and Oxford, and Wayve have secured more than $1 billion in funding to develop its AI technology further here in the UK.

Wayve has said that their technological advancements have been supported by the UK’s Code of practice: automated vehicle trialling, which sets out a clear framework to support and promote the safe trailing of self-driving vehicle technology.

Following the announcement of the new Act, Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO of Wayve, said: “I am delighted that the Automated Vehicles Bill has received Royal Assent. This is a critical milestone for the UK’s deployment of self-driving technology and cements the UK as a global leader in regulating this sector.

“We are grateful to the government and all who have engaged with us in the conversation about the importance of this legislation.

“Self-driving technology promises a safer, smarter and more sustainable future of transport. There’s still some way to go with secondary legislation before we can reap the full benefits of self-driving vehicles in the UK, but we are confident the government will prioritise these next steps so this technology can be deployed as soon as possible.”

According to the Government announcement regarding the Act and how it will work on UK roads, it will deliver ‘the most comprehensive legal framework of its kind worldwide, setting out who is liable for Avs’.

The Act states that drivers who are in their vehicle when in self-driving mode, will not be held responsible for how the vehicle drives.

This would mean that insurance providers, software developers and automotive manufacturers will assume responsibility for certain incidents. 

An independent incident investigation function will be created to monitor the industry as the technology and vehicles develop.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams: “This is a major step on the road to autonomous vehicles appearing on the UK’s roads. But there’s lots of work still to do, not least bringing drivers along on the journey.

“RAC research conducted last year showed 58% of drivers are scared by the idea of fully autonomous vehicles and just 15% think they’ll make the roads safer, so there needs to be a real culture change if we’re to see the public fully embrace them.

“There are also some very practical hurdles to overcome, such as how the cars of tomorrow will be able to successfully and safely navigate the UK’s complex web of streets – especially with so many potholes and faded road markings.”

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