Driverless cars coming to UK roads
The UK government plans to publish a Code of Practice in the spring of 2015 for companies who wish to test driverless cars on UK roads.
It comes after the UK Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that the current legal and regulatory framework would not prevent the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads.
The government has also launched a review to look at the need to amend domestic regulations in order to accommodate driverless vehicle technology, which is due to be published in the summer of 2017.
The review will examine a number of broad areas, such as a clarification of liabilities in the case of collisions; amend regulations on vehicle use to take into account automation technology and the promotion of safety.
Transport Minister Claire Perry said: “Driverless cars are the future. I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.
“These are still early days, but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”
According to the Government, 90% of all collisions involve human error. The number of road deaths and injuries involving human error is even higher, at 94%.
As a result, road safety charity Brake has hailed the move. Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “Driverless vehicles could transform the way we use roads, helping to ensure everyone can get around through safe, sustainable and affordable means, and making our communities more pleasant and sociable places.”
Brake’s optimism was mirrored by the motoring industry. BMW’s fleet arm Alphabet was also positive about the news.
John Chuhan, chief risk officer at Alphabet, said: “We’re still a few years away from fully autonomous vehicles becoming an everyday sight on the streets of the UK, but it’s great to see the government taking steps to make the UK a world leader in driverless technology.
Clarity over legislation and driving standards will be vital for ensuring the adoption of driverless vehicles in the UK is a success, so the fact the government is already taking steps to address this issue is good news for the industry.”
While also positive about the potential for driverless cars, Hugh Boyes of the Institution of Engineering and Technology noted that gaining public acceptance and trust would be crucial, and that the question of liability would need be addressed.
“Perhaps the biggest question mark will be around cyber security,” Boyes said. The reliability and security of software used in driverless cars will be a major cause of concern for manufacturers and insurers. If hackers found a way to target vehicles, this could present a whole new set of challenges that the industry is not currently equipped to tackle.”