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Self driving vehicles could be on UK roads by the end of the year

Vehicles with fully Automated Lane Keeping Systems could be the first example of self-driving vehicle seen on UK roads as early as this year.

Tesla Dash

ANNOUNCED today by the Department of Transport, motorists could see self-driving vehicles on UK roads as early as this year. This is following the conclusion of a call for evidence seeking views on the safe use of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) and the UK Government paving the way for self driving cars. 

With the consultation running between August 2020 and October 2020, it was found that ALKS systems controlling the automated lateral (left & right) and longitudinal (forward & back) movement of a vehicle is legally defined as self-driving - provided they have GB type approval, and there is no evidence to challenge the vehicle’s ability to self-drive. 

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These Automated Lane Keeping Systems are designed for use on motorways in slow traffic (up to 37mph), enabling a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane, and return control to the driver if needed. They are seen as a means of improving the safety of the roads and improve access to transport for those with mobility issues.

It’s hoped that the use of automated vehicle tech would reduce the human error element from accidents, which is quoted as being a contributing factor in over 85% of all accidents. It would also have the potential to end congestion, with vehicles all keeping a steady speed and communicating with one another & traffic lights to keep traffic flowing. 

This is not forgetting that Tesla has pioneered self-driving 'autopilot' tech for a number of years now, and are known to be entirely happy with the safety of their self-driving capabilities.

self driving cars

Radar-controlled cruise control is steadily being introduced into the motorcycling industry, too, most notably in the groundbreaking Ducati Multistrada V4 S, and the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S - technology that we found to be extremely rewarding to use. 

Amendments to the Highway Code are being proposed, and the government are inviting road users to send their thoughts - the consultation closes 28th May 2021 at 11:45pm. 

Self driving vehicles - are they good or bad?

Ducati Multistrada V4

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said:

"This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better.

"But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower."

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SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said:

"The automotive industry welcomes this vital step to permit the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put Britain in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology. Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error.

"Technologies such as Automated Lane Keeping Systems will pave the way for higher levels of automation in future – and these advances will unleash Britain’s potential to be a world leader in the development and use of these technologies, creating essential jobs while ensuring our roads remain among the safest on the planet."

My only question is how filtering and lane-splitting would fare when passing these vehicles piloted by an Automated Lane Keeping System. Riding past slow-moving traffic would surely set off some alarm bells in the car that an unidentified riding object has just entered the frame?