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UK plans for first self-driving vehicles on roads by next year

UK plans for first self-driving vehicles on roads by next year

Backed by 100 million pounds funding, the Department for Transport (DfT) said the government's plans would prioritise safety through new laws and create thousands of new jobs in the industry.

UK plans for first self-driving vehicles on roads by next year (Photo: Reuters) UK plans for first self-driving vehicles on roads by next year (Photo: Reuters)

Vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks with some self-driving features could be operating on UK highways in the next year, the UK government said on Friday as it rolled out plans for new legislation in time for self-driving vehicles by 2025.

Backed by 100 million pounds funding, the Department for Transport (DfT) said the government's plans would prioritise safety through new laws and create thousands of new jobs in the industry.

It believes the emerging market of self-driving vehicles could create up to 38,000 jobs and be worth an estimated 42 billion pounds.

The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge. Not only can they improve people's access to education and other vital services, but the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country, said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Most importantly, they're expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions. We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using this fantastic technology, and that is why we are investing millions in vital research into safety and setting the legislation to ensure we gain the full benefits that this technology promises, he said.

Under government plans, vehicles that can drive themselves on motorways could be available to purchase within the next year, for which users would need a valid driving licence.

Other self-driving vehicles, such as those used for public transport or delivery expected on the roads by 2025, would not need anyone onboard with a driving licence because they would be able to drive themselves for the whole journey.

DfT says new laws for the safe rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025 will be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible.

The legislation will build on existing laws, and state that manufacturers are responsible for the vehicle's actions when self-driving, meaning a human driver would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.

Self-driving vehicles are expected to revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don't drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.

Further in the future, they could also provide tailored on-demand links from rural towns and villages to existing public transport options nearby.

They could also provide more direct and timely services that enable people to better access vital services such as schools and medical appointments.

DfT said its vision for self-driving vehicles covers 34 million pounds for research to support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation.

This could include researching the performance of self-driving cars in poor weather conditions and how they interact with pedestrians, other vehicles, and cyclists.

The British government has also confirmed 20 million pounds, as part of the overall 100 million pounds, to help kick-start commercial self-driving services and enable businesses to grow and create jobs in the country.

Successful projects could involve groceries delivered to customers by self-driving vehicles, or shuttle pods assisting passengers when moving through airports. Around 6 million pounds will also be used for further market research and to support commercialisation of the technology.

Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people's lives, particularly by helping those who have mobility issues or rely on public transport to access the jobs, local shops and vital services we all depend on, said UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this industry, attracting investment, developing the UK's growing self-driving vehicle supply chain, and supporting high-skill jobs as these new means of transport are rolled out, he said.

The government has launched a consultation on the safety ambition for self-driving vehicles, the findings of which would inform standards that vehicles need to meet to be allowed to self-drive on the roads.

As part of the safety plans, organisations and manufacturers could face sanctions if standards are not met.

Published on: Aug 19, 2022, 9:36 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Aug 19, 2022, 9:07 PM IST
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