The Government has recently published an Open Consultation on 'Rules on safe use of automated vehicles on GB roads' in which it has stated that 'early forms of commercially available automation are primed to enter the market within the next year.' The consultation sets out the Government's proposed regulatory changes to support its safe use on British roads.
The Governments proposals reflect a gradual transition to autonomous vehicles starting with the introduction of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS), which will keep a car in its motorway lane up to speeds of 37mph and paving the way for the introduction of further automated and 'driverless' technology.
The Government also intend to lay amendments and a new section to The Highway Code in Parliament by the end of 2021 to ensure the UK is ready for the introduction of ALKS on Great Britain’s roads. The proposed new section to The Highway Code will consider additional responsibilities of drivers and address the quick transitions required between drivers taking over responsibility of a vehicle.
Driverless cars have been talked about for years and we all picture an entirely independent self-driving car while we take a nap or check emails, but in reality this still feels like a long way off. The challenges in introducing autonomy to vehicles while ensuring safe procedures, proper insurance policies and roads and policies that facilitate driverless cars is something that will take time, but this certainly feels like a step in the right direction.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in this transitioning period will be to ensure that individuals do not get overly confident or become overly reliant on autonomous functionality while they still need to remain responsible for a vehicle and therefore remain alert at all times. The updates to The Highway Code will be important in articulating this new responsibility for drivers.