Self-Driving Cars Given Government Approval

After several years of debate and discourse, we have finally reached something of a monumental occasion in automated vehicles. The UK government has finally given the green light for self-driving cars, with the Automated Vehicles Act set to be implemented as early as 2026.

Rules and Regs

As one would expect, there will be rules and regulations regarding self-driving vehicles to ensure the protection of the public and passengers in vehicles.

Automated vehicles will undergo strict testing to ensure their safety on the roads. If an accident occurs while the vehicle is self-driving, the manufacturer will be held legally responsible instead of the driver.

The Automated Vehicles Act

It is important to note that the self-driving vehicle revolution is underpinned by the Automated Vehicles Act, which aims to reduce the human error factor in driving to improve safety. Human error currently accounts for 88% of traffic collisions in the UK.

The Act is also expected to expand the economy while serving as a framework for self-driving cars. £475M of investments have been invested in the self-driving vehicle industry in the UK since 2018, and it has generated 1500 jobs. This investment is expected to rise to £42 billion by 2035.

Mark Harper is the UK Transport Secretary, and had this to say:

“Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution, and this new law is a milestone 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.”

Mixed Industry Response

For the most part, reactions to the new law have been positive. Mike Hawes is the Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and openly supports the law. He said the following on the topic:

“This is a watershed moment for UK automotive innovation and road safety in the UK. Self-driving vehicles will revolutionise our society, and this new law will help turn ambition into reality, putting the UK alongside a handful of other global markets that already have their regulatory frameworks in place.

The industry will continue closely collaborating with government and other stakeholders to develop the necessary secondary legislation to enable the safe and responsible commercial rollout of self-driving vehicles and the significant social and economic benefits they will afford the UK.”

Public perceptions of the Act are less positive. The RAC conducted a study and found that 58% of drivers have noted fear and apprehension at the idea of self-driving cars. Simon Williams, Head of Policy at the RAC, offered these comments:

“This is a major step toward autonomous vehicles appearing on the UK’s roads. But there’s still lots of work, not least bringing drivers along on the journey.

There are 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.”