UK could allow fully driverless trials on public roads by year-end

07 February 2019

UK could allow fully driverless trials on public roads by year-end

7 February 2019

In a strong signal of support for the UK automotive and technology industries, the Government has announced that a process is being developed to support the advanced trials of autonomous vehicles on the country’s roads.

Britain is aiming to become a leader in the testing and development of driverless technology. With the UK’s market for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) estimated to be worth £52 billion (€59 billion) by 2035, this is a major boost to a sector open to investment from the world’s brightest transport technology companies. It also demonstrates that the Government is on track to meet its commitment to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021, as part of its modern Industrial Strategy.

In response to feedback, the Government has also announced that its code of practice for testing automated vehicles will be strengthened further to set even clearer expectations for safe and responsible trials. The ‘code of practice’, first published in 2015, makes clear that autonomous 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 autonomous vehicles will be expected to publish safety information, trial performance reports and to carry out risk assessments. Advanced trials will not be supported unless they have passed these rigorous safety assessments. Trialling organisations are also expected to inform the relevant authorities, emergency services, and anyone who might be affected by the trial activity.

Jesse Norman, Future of Mobility Minister, comments: ‘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.

Richard Harrington, Automotive Minister, added: ‘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 want to ensure through the Industrial Strategy Future of Mobility Grand Challenge that we build on this success and strength to ensure we are home to development and manufacture of the next generation of vehicles.

‘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.’

Sweden recently allowed a Volvo joint venture to test on faster roads in the country using fully driverless vehicles. Each car will have an occupant on board, although testing will be conducted without any physical contact between them and the vehicle.