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UK commits £100m to self driving cars on its roads by 2025

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The UK government is planning to allow cars, coaches and lorries with self-driving features on motorways in the next year, with legislation for a wider rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025.

Backed by £100m, this would enable the UK to take full advantage of the emerging market of self-driving vehicles which could create up to 38,000 jobs and could be worth an estimated £42 billion, says the Department of Transport.

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s (CDEI) has also published a report on the Responsible Innovation in Self-Driving Vehicles, which sets out proposals for a trustworthy approach to the regulation and governance of self-driving vehicles.

£34 million has been confirmed today 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.

Vehicles that can drive themselves on motorways could be available to purchase within the next year, which users would need a valid driving licence for, so they can drive on other roads. Other self-driving vehicles, for example used for public transport or delivery, expected on the roads by 2025, would not need anyone onboard with a driving licence because they would be able to drive themselves for the whole journey.

The government also announced £20 million to help kick-start commercial self-driving services following an existing £40 million investment. Successful projects could help see, for example, groceries delivered to customers by self-driving vehicles, or shuttle pods assisting passengers when moving through airports. £6 million will also be used for further market research and to support commercialisation of the technology.

Future services could provide tailored on-demand links from rural towns and villages to existing public transport options nearby as bus services are cut back. They could also provide more direct and timely services that enable people to better access vital services such as schools and medical appointments.

The UK government is now consulting on a ‘safety ambition’ for self-driving vehicles to be as safe as a competent and careful human driver. This aims to 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 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,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “Most importantly, they’re expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions. 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.”

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.

“Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, particularly by helping those who have mobility issues or rely on public transport to access the jobs, local shops and vital services we all depend on,” said UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. “This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this industry, attracting investment, developing the UK’s growing self-driving vehicle supply chain, and supporting high-skill jobs as these new means of transport are rolled out.

“It is still quite a big leap from assisted driving, where the driver is still in control, to self-driving, where the car takes control. It is important that the government does study how these vehicles would interact with other road users on different roads and changing weather conditions. However the ultimate prize, in terms of saving thousands of lives and improving the mobility of the elderly and the less mobile, is well worth pursuing,” said Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association (AA) in the UK.

www.gov.ukResponsible Innovation in Self-Driving Vehicles report

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