A consultation on how innovative new autonomous technology can be used on UK roads has been launched by the government.
The call for evidence concerns automated lane keeping systems (ALKS), an automated system that can take over control of the vehicle at low speeds.
The technology is designed to enable drivers – for the first time ever – to delegate the task of driving to the vehicle.
When activated, the system keeps the vehicle within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything – although they must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.
ALKS differs from existing ADAS such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, in that while using it, the driver is allowed to “safely delegate the driving task to the vehicle”.
The consultation follows the approval of ALKS Regulation in June 2020 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – of which the UK is a member – and the technology is likely to be available in cars entering the UK market from spring 2021.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Automated technologies for vehicles, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade.
“This advanced technology is ready for roll out in new models from as early as 2021, so today’s announcement is a welcome step in preparing the UK for its use, so we can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.”
The government is seeking views from industry on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of the system to pave the way towards introducing it safely in Great Britain, within the current legal framework.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists and the UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies.
“The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this call for evidence could be a significant step forward for this exciting technology.”
The call for evidence asks whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.
The consultation also seeks views on government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at speeds of up to 70mph.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “Over the last 50 years, leading edge in-car technology from seat belts to airbags and ABS has helped to save thousands of lives.
“The government is right to be consulting on the latest collision-avoidance system which has the potential to make our roads even safer in the future.”
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