The UK government has announced its plans to introduce new laws and regulations to allow self-driving vehicles to operate on British roads by 2026. The Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said that the technology has “a huge number of potential uses” and could improve safety, accessibility, and efficiency of transport.

The new Automated Vehicles Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 8 November 2023, will provide a comprehensive legal framework for self-driving vehicles, with safety as its core principle. The bill will define the conditions and requirements for self-driving vehicles to be legally considered as such, and will establish a regulatory scheme to monitor their ongoing performance and safety.

According to the government, self-driving vehicles could help reduce human error, which contributes to over 85% of road accidents, and could also benefit millions of people who cannot drive due to disability, age, or other reasons. The technology could also enhance rural connectivity, reduce congestion, and enable more efficient delivery and freight services.

The government expects that the self-driving vehicle industry will create up to 38,000 new jobs and generate £42 billion in revenue by 2035. The UK is already a global leader in this field, with several trials and projects underway to test and develop self-driving technologies, such as the £66 million Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility fund.

However, the government also acknowledges that there are challenges and risks associated with self-driving vehicles, such as cyber-security, ethical, and social issues. Therefore, the government is also launching a consultation on The Highway Code rules to ensure that the first wave of self-driving vehicles is used safely and responsibly. The consultation will run until 28 May 2021 and will seek views from the public, industry, and stakeholders.

The Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better. 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. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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