UK Govt Announces Self-Driving Cars This Year

Thu 29th Apr 2021

A future of automated car technology took one step closer to reality this week after the Department for Transport gave the green light for Automated Lane Keeping Systems.

The ALKS technology allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel of the car, with the vehicle’s on board computer taking over the steering, speed and distance from the vehicle ahead. The so-called Level 3 automation means drivers are not in charge of the vehicle, but must be ready to take control in the event of a warning. Under the new laws drivers could send a text or watch a film while the vehicle has control under ALKS.

The technology is expected to be trialled on UK roads by the end of 2021, with cars initially restricted to 37mph, though it is hoped that could soon be increased to 70mph.

“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,” said Transport minister Rachael Maclean.

“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.”

There are currently very few vehicles which have Level 3 ALKS technology installed, even Tesla who are seen as pioneers of self-driving only have software classified as Level 2. There are five levels, with Leven 3 known as Conditional Automation, which according to the Society of Automotive Engineers is where ‘Driver is a necessity, but is not required to monitor the environment. The driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times with notice.’ There are increased levels of automation High Automation (Level 4) and Full Automation (Level 5), though the technology for that level of self-driving is thought to be years away.