The Government has unveiled plans for the widespread roll-out of self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2025.
The proposals, announced on 19 August, aim to spark a ‘transport revolution’ by improving road safety and better connecting communities.
They have been launched alongside a public consultation, which seeks views on how self-driving vehicles can be ‘as safe as a competent and careful human driver’.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps, says the benefits of self-driving vehicles “have the potential to be huge”.
Some vehicles with self-driving features could be operating on motorways within the next year, under previously announced plans.
Users of these vehicles would still need a valid driving licence, so they can drive on other roads.
Under the new proposals, the Government expects vehicles capable of driving themselves ‘for the whole journey’ to be available by 2025 – and these would not need anyone onboard with a licence.
Examples cited include vehicles used for public transport or delivery. The Government press release mentions no details of self-driving cars available for personal use.
The Government says self-driving vehicles could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don’t drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.
Grant Shapps said: “The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge. Not only can they improve people’s access to education and other vital services, but the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country.
“Most importantly, they’re expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions.”
The Government’s vision for self-driving vehicles is backed by a total of £100 million, including £34 million for research to support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation.
This could include researching the performance of self-driving cars in poor weather conditions and how they interact with pedestrians, other vehicles, and cyclists.
Meanwhile, a ‘safety ambition’ consultation for self-driving vehicles has been launched, looking at how this technology can be as safe as a competent and careful human driver.
This ambition would inform standards that vehicles need to meet to be allowed to ‘self-drive’ on the roads, and organisations, such as manufacturers, could face sanctions if standards are not met.
The new laws for the safe rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025 will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.
The legislation will build on existing laws, and state that manufacturers are responsible for the vehicle’s actions when self-driving, meaning a human driver would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.
Grant Shapps added: “We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using this fantastic technology, and that is why we are investing millions in vital research into safety and setting the legislation to ensure we gain the full benefits that this technology promises.”
Earlier this year, the Government made changes to the Highway Code to pave the way for the first self-driving vehicles.