Fully autonomous cars to hit UK roads from 2021, government says

UK seeks to cement position as a world leader in automated vehicle trials

Fully autonomous cars to hit UK roads from 2021, government says

Driverless cars could be in full use on Britain’s roads by 2021, the government has this week announced.

A statement issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed that the UK is “on track to meet its commitment to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021”.

The DfT described its announcement as a “major boost” to the UK’s market for connected and automated vehicles, which it estimates will be worth £52 billion by 2035.

Richard Harrington, automotive minister, said: “The UK has a rich heritage in automotive development and manufacturing, with automated and electric vehicles set to transform the way we all live our lives.

“We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021.

“The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”

“2021 feels extremely challenging”

The government’s desire to see fully autonomous cars on the roads by 2021 comes despite a series of fatal crashes in the US.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for automotive association AA, said: “While we generally welcome ambitious targets, 2021 feels extremely challenging given the technical and legal hurdles yet to be overcome.

“It is possible we might see ‘driverless’ vehicles following fixed routes in dedicated lanes by then – but the self-driving vehicle that can take you from your home to anywhere and back again in any weather and in mixed traffic is much, much further away.”

Code of practice

The ‘code of practice’, first published in 2015, makes clear that automated vehicle trials are possible on any UK road provided they are compliant with UK law – including testing with a remote driver.

The update to the code acknowledges the growing desire of industry to conduct more advanced trials, and a process to handle such trials on public roads is now being developed.

Under the strengthened code, those carrying out trials for automated vehicles will be expected to publish safety information, trial performance reports and to carry out risks assessments before conducting a trial.

Trialling organisations are also expected to inform the relevant authorities, emergency services, and anyone who might be affected by trial activity.

Jesse Norman, Future of Mobility Minister, said: “Thanks to the UK’s world class research base, this country is in the vanguard of the development of new transport technologies, including automation.

“The government is supporting the safe, transparent trialling of this pioneering technology, which could transform the way we travel.”

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