12 June 2024

‘Watershed Moment’ as UK passes self-driving car law

Daily News
| The European |

Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads by 2026 after the government’s “landmark” legal framework for autonomous vehicles gained royal assent on Monday

According to the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT), the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act will put “Great Britain at the forefront of self-driving regulation”.

It will also create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035 and tap into an industry worth up to £42billion, it added.

Autonomous vehicles will still need to meet “rigorous” safety standards before being allowed onto roads.

This could cut the number of deaths and injuries caused by drink-driving, speeding, tiredness and inattention, the DfT added.

But the new law means that motorists will not be held responsible for the action of a vehicle in self-driving mode.

Instead, liability will fall on corporations such as insurance providers, software developers and automotive manufacturers.

The DfT said: “The act delivers the most comprehensive legal framework of its kind worldwide, setting out who is liable for AVs meaning that drivers can be assured that, while their vehicle is in self-driving mode, they will not be held responsible for how the vehicle drives.

“Companies will have ongoing obligations to keep their vehicles safe and ensure that they continue to drive in accordance with British laws.”

Trials of autonomous vehicle technology are already in place across the UK, such as by Wayve in London and Oxa in Oxford.

Earlier this month, Wayve secured more than $1 billion in investment to develop its UK-based AI technology.

The introduction of the AV Act will further bolster the UK’s position as a world leader in emerging industries, the DfT said.

It will also support industries impacted by human driver shortages, such as haulage, and will improve the lives of millions of Britons affected by immobility.

Mark Harper, the UK’s Transport Secretary, 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.  

“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, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 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.”

Main image: DfT, showing Transport Minister, Mark Harper

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