UK becomes first country to give green light to self-driving cars on motorways


The Government of the United Kingdom became the first country on April 28, 2021, to announce that it will be regulating the use of self-driving cars at slow speeds on motorways. The first such vehicles are expected to appear on public roads as soon as in 2021.

The Transport Ministry of Britain informed that it has been working on specific wording to update the highway code of the country for the safe use of self-driving vehicle systems.

The Ministry will start with the Automated Lane Keeping Systems- ALKS- which uses software and sensors to keep cars within the lane and allowing them to brake and accelerate without driver input.

As per the Government, the use of ALKS will be restricted to motorways. The speed must be under 37 miles (60 km) per hour.

UK’s plan of being at forefront of autonomous driving technology

The Government of Britain plans to be at the forefront of rolling out autonomous driving technology. As per the forecast by the Transport Ministry, by 2035 around 40% of the new UK Cars can have self-driving capabilities which will also create up to 38,000 new skilled jobs.

The CEO of the car industry lobby group the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Mike Hawes mentioned in a statement that the automotive industry has welcomed this significant step to permit the use of automated vehicles on roads. It will further put Britain in the vanguard of automative technology and road safety.

Problem with self-driving cars:

Even though the decision has been welcomed in Britain by many sectors, the insurance companies have warned that the UK’s goal of being a leader in adopting self-driving cars can go wrong unless the regulators and automakers spell out the current limitations of the available technology.

As per the insurance companies, calling ALKS ‘automated’ or using the synonymous term like self-driving will further confuse the drivers into thinking that the cars can drive themselves. It can cause accidents and also risk a public backlash against the technology.

The Research Director at Thatcham Research, which tested the ALKS system further stated that aside from the lack of technical capabilities, calling ALKS automated, the concern is also that the government has been contributing to the confusion and misuse of the assisted driving systems that led to many tragic deaths.

US faces the issue of automated cars:

The danger of drivers misunderstanding the limits of technology is something that has been an issue in the United States.

The regulators in the US have been reviewing about 20 crashes that involve Tesla’s driver assistance tools, such as its ‘Autopilot’ system.

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