UK to allow ‘self-driving’ cars on public roads in 2021
The British Department for Transport has announced that hands-free driving would be legalized this year. It will be limited to driving with automated lane-keeping systems at speeds of up to 37 mph (60 km/h) on highways.
The government notes that vehicles fitted with the technology must first receive GB-type approval and that there shouldn’t be any evidence to challenge the vehicle’s ability to self-drive.
Dipping toe in autonomous driving
Following a call for evidence last year, the UK is now declaring Autonomous Lane-Keeping Systems (ALKS) as self-driving technologies. It’s the first step toward autonomous driving in Britain as motorists won’t be required to monitor the road or keep their hands on the wheel.
They must, however, be able to take over within ten seconds. If nothing happens, the vehicle should automatically flash the hazard lights, slow down, and stop. Recent ADAS systems, such as the one found in Mercedes cars, already apply such safety procedures.
Highway at up to 60 km/hour
“This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier, and more reliable. But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like,” declared Brisith Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, in a press release.
At the moment, Britain sees ALKS as a way to help driving and increase safety in highway traffic jams, in conjunction with adaptive cruise control. This is why hands-free driving will be limited to speeds of up to 37 mph (60 km/h) on highways.
Motor insurers’ automotive research center, Thatcham Research, warns about the danger of calling such lane-assist systems “self-driving features”, with the risk of making motorists overconfident. Talking to the BBC, analysts from the research center note that ALKS are assisted driving systems that rely on the driver to take back control. The government calling such systems “automated” would confuse customers, who will expect the car to do the driver’s job, which many current models can’t do.