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Automated Vehicles Act Could Put Self-Driving Vehicles on the Roads in As Little As 2 Years

The Automated Vehicles Act was passed into law this week, enabling advanced technology which will allow self-driving vehicles on British roads. This is one of the most advanced and forward-thinking acts described by the government in a long time, and puts the UK at the forefront of self-driving technology regulation.

This move paves the way for the establishment of a automated vehicle industry which is estimated to be worth up to £42 billion and could create in the region of 38,000 jobs by 2035.

The Act is built around road safety, and requires self-driving vehicles to demonstrate driving ability at least as safe as ‘careful and competent human drivers’, with additional safety checks also required.

As many road traffic incidents are due to drink driving, speeding, tiredness and inattention, it is expected that self-driving vehicles will make roads safer.

Included in the Automated Vehicles Act is a comprehensive legal framework that sets out, among other things, who is liable for the vehicle in self-driving mode. The Act states that it is the automotive manufacturers and the software developers that are responsible.

There will also be a highly detailed approval system before vehicles are permitted on public roads, and an independent incident investigation function to further improve safety.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry, which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.”

He went on to add, “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.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive,  added: “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 its close collaboration with government and other stakeholders to develop the necessary secondary legislation that will enable the safe and responsible commercial rollout of self-driving vehicles and the significant social and economic benefits they will afford the UK.”

Vans and commercial vehicles are one of many applications for self-driving technology, and manufacturers are well underway with their research.

Self-driving trials are already taking place across the country, so we should not have long to wait before commercial models are released.