The Automated Vehicle Act Becomes Law in the UK

The Automated Vehicle Act will mean self-driving and autonomous vehicles will be on the UK’s roads as soon as 2026

The Automated Vehicle Act Becomes Law in the UK

Self-driving and autonomous cars will be hitting the UK roads in just two years, as the Autonomous Vehicle Act (AV Act) becomes law by Royal Assent.

The government claims that road safety is at ‘the heart of the legislation’, and that it expects the use of autonomous vehicles to improve road safety by ‘reducing human error’, which it is claimed causes 88 per cent of road collisions.

The new law sets out guidelines and thresholds that must be met before an autonomous or self-driving vehicle is allowed on UK roads, including being able to operate as safely as a competent human driver, as well as meeting what the government calls ‘rigorous safety checks’ before being allowed onto roads.

Aside from the claimed safety benefits of autonomous vehicles taking to the UK road network, it’s also claimed the roll-out of the technology could have a positive impact on the economy, with the industry estimated to be worth up to £42 billion and able to create 38,000 jobs by 2035.

The new AV Act comes just a few years after organisations the Association of British Insurers (ABI), and Thatcham backed a slowing down of the roll-out of autonomous technology on the UK’s roads. At the time concerns were raised around Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) which is claimed did not ‘replicate what a competent and engaged human driver can do’, with Thatcham’s research highlighting that in some circumstances ALKS may not detect a pedestrian who is encroaching on the roadway. It has also been highlighted that in some cases connected vehicles do not fully ‘see’ motorcyclists when sharing the road with them. It’s also less than a month since an investigation was launched into Amazon-owned Zoox after its test-bed vehicles were involved in two crashes with motorcycles.

Speaking about the new law, Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said:  

“Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry, which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.   

“While this doesn’t take away people’s ability to choose to drive themselves, our landmark legislation means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026, in a real boost to both safety and our economy.”