UK Government confirms Highway Code changes for autonomous vehicles

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The UK Government has just confirmed planned changes to The Highway Code that will allow people “to experience the full benefits of the first self-driving vehicles when they arrive".

UK Government confirms Highway Code changes for autonomous vehicles
Photo: BP63Vincent, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The changes, which have been made in response to a public consultation, will “pave the way for safer, more efficient travel” according to the government. The amendments shall set out how the world’s first autonomous vehicles should operate safely on UK roads.

In a statement published today, the government said the Highway Code will explain clearly that “while travelling in self-driving mode, motorists must be ready to resume control in a timely way if they are prompted to – such as when they approach motorway exits.” The plans shall also allow drivers to view content on their own devices while the self-driving vehicle is in control.

The introduction of the technology is likely to begin with vehicles travelling at slow speeds on motorways, such as in congested traffic.

The government states that Britain’s first vehicles approved for self-driving could be ready for use as soon as this year. The vehicles “will undergo rigorous testing” and only be approved as self-driving when they have “met stringent standards”.

In its statement, the government added that it is continuing to develop a full legal framework for self-driving vehicles “to enable the safer and greener movement of people and goods in the UK”. The Department for Transport will also work with industry, regulators and safety organisations to ensure drivers can access information, including online, to help them use the vehicles safely.

Commenting on the planned changes, Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said:

“This is a major milestone in our safe introduction of self-driving vehicles, which will revolutionise the way we travel, making our future journeys greener, safer and more reliable. This exciting technology is developing at pace right here in Great Britain and we’re ensuring we have strong foundations in place for drivers when it takes to our roads. In doing so, we can help improve travel for all while boosting economic growth across the nation and securing Britain’s place as a global science superpower.”

The government believes the development of self-driving vehicles could create around 38,000 new, high-skilled jobs in Britain that would be worth £41.7 billion by 2035.

Meanwhile, the government expects to have a full regulatory framework in place to support the widespread deployment of automated lane keeping system (ALKS) technology technology by 2025. In the opinion of the government, the tech could improve road safety across Britain by reducing human error.

Also commenting on the future amendments to the Highway Code was Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, who said:

“The Highway Code has been updated a number of times in recent years to reflect the rapidly changing transport world we live in and these latest additions will help us all understand what we must and must not do as we move forward to an environment where cars drive themselves. The final part of the jigsaw is to ensure these amendments are widely communicated to, ​and understood by,​ vehicle owners. Vehicle manufacturers and sellers will have a vital role to play in ensuring their customers fully appreciate the capabilities of the cars they buy and the rules that govern them.”


Photo: BP63Vincent, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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