The UK government has announced a comprehensive plan to introduce self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads, aiming to revolutionize transportation, enhance road safety, and boost the economy. With an estimated industry worth of £42 billion, the rollout could create around 38,000 new jobs.
Supported by a £100 million investment, the government plans to prioritize safety through new legislation and allocate funds for research on safety advancements. By 2025, self-driving vehicles, including cars, coaches, and lorries, could be operating on UK motorways, leveraging the emerging market’s potential. The government’s vision includes improving public transport, connecting communities, and reducing accidents caused by human error.
The legislation will hold manufacturers responsible for the vehicle’s actions when in autonomous mode, promoting road safety. This significant step forward highlights the UK’s commitment to becoming a global leader in self-driving technology.
Furthermore, the government aims to foster commercial self-driving services by providing an additional £20 million, bringing the total investment to £100 million. This financial support will enable businesses to grow and create jobs within the UK. The potential applications of self-driving vehicles are vast, with possibilities such as delivering groceries or assisting passengers in airports through shuttle pods. Market research and support for technology commercialization will also receive £6 million, driving innovation and adoption.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps emphasizes the immense benefits of self-driving vehicles, highlighting their potential to improve access to education and essential services while creating tens of thousands of job opportunities. Moreover, self-driving technology has the potential to significantly enhance road safety by mitigating the risks associated with human error.
To ensure the safe implementation of self-driving vehicles, the government is consulting on a “safety ambition” that aims to achieve a level of safety equivalent to that of a competent human driver. This ambition will shape the standards that self-driving vehicles must meet in order to operate on public roads, and organizations could face penalties if these standards are not met.
The upcoming legislation for the rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025 will build upon existing laws and establish that manufacturers hold liability for the vehicle’s actions when in autonomous mode, relieving human drivers of responsibility during that time.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng highlights the potential of self-driving vehicles to transform people’s lives, especially those with mobility issues or limited access to public transportation. The government’s funding and support will unlock the industry’s potential, attract investment, foster the growth of the self-driving vehicle supply chain, and create high-skill jobs.
The government’s commitment to embracing self-driving technology is met with support from organizations such as the AA (Automobile Association). While acknowledging the importance of studying how self-driving vehicles interact with other road users and various weather conditions, the AA emphasizes the ultimate benefits, including saving lives and improving mobility for the elderly and less mobile individuals.
In parallel, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) has released the “Responsible Innovation in Self-Driving Vehicles” report, presenting recommendations for a trustworthy regulatory and governance framework for self-driving vehicles.
The UK’s government-led efforts to introduce self-driving vehicles on its roads demonstrate a progressive approach that prioritizes safety, economic growth, and societal benefits. With substantial investments and strategic legislation, the UK is poised to become a global leader in self-driving technology, shaping the future of transportation for the better.