June 22, 2024

Self-driving cars to be allowed on UK roads by 2026 under new law

The UK’s Automated Vehicles Act has received approval, setting the stage for self-driving cars to operate on the nation’s roads by 2026.

Upon the enactment of the new law, it is projected that the sector could potentially be valued at up to £42bn and generate 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

The government underscores that road safety is at the core of this legislation to significantly decrease the human error factor responsible for 88% of road collisions.

Self-driving vehicles will be subject to rigorous safety standards, mandated to meet or exceed the safety levels of cautious and proficient human drivers.

Stringent safety checks will be mandatory for these vehicles prior to their authorization for road use, possibly reducing incidents caused by drunk driving, speeding, and distractions.

The Royal Assent to the act follows numerous successful self-driving trials conducted across the UK, including those by British companies Wayve and Oxa in London and Oxford, respectively.

Wayve, for instance, has secured more than $1bn in investment to advance its self-driving AI technology within the UK.

Between 2018 and 2022, the self-driving vehicle sector in the UK has already attracted £475m in direct investment and led to the creation of 1,500 new jobs.

The potential use cases for self-driving vehicles are extensive, ranging from addressing shortage of haulage drivers to enhancing safety in high-risk industries like mining.

The UK will implement a vehicle approval system, supported by an independent incident investigation function, to ensure the highest safety standards, drawing inspiration from the safety protocols in the aviation industry.

Continuous obligations for companies will ensure that self-driving vehicles remain safe and compliant with UK regulations.

Trials have illustrated the potential of self-driving vehicles to enhance mobility, access to services, and connectivity, particularly for rural communities.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented, “Britain is on the verge of an automotive revolution and this new law marks a significant moment for our self-driving industry, which has the ability to transform the way we travel permanently.

“While individuals will still have the option to drive themselves, our groundbreaking legislation means self-driving vehicles could be deployed on British roads as early as 2026, providing a substantial boost to both safety and our economy.”

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes added, “This marks a pivotal moment for UK automotive innovation and road safety. Self-driving vehicles will revolutionize our society, and this new law will help translate ambition into reality, positioning the UK alongside a select few other global markets that have already established their regulatory frameworks.”

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