New plans suggest that UK roads could see self-driving vehicles rolled out by 2025 and some vehicles, including cars, coaches, and lorries with self-driving features could be operating on motorways this year. Offering the potential to transform passenger travel and public transport, reduce collisions, support mobility, and connect rural communities, legislation covering the safe roll out of self-driving vehicles is to advise standards that the vehicles need to meet is under consultation.

  • Autonomous vehicles could be rolled out on UK roads by 2025.
  • Passenger travel, public transport, rural transport connections and safety could be transformed by their introduction.
  • New legislation for the safe 2025 rollout of self-driving vehicles will build on existing laws.

With new plans for autonomous vehicles to be rolled on UK roads, industry investment and funded research on safety is moving ahead, the development of a legal framework is required to provide the basis for their safe, responsible use.

The framework will state that the responsibility for the actions of the vehicles when self-driving lies with manufacturers. This means that in a vehicle-controlled driving incident, human drivers would not be liable.

As the AI is responsible for driving actions, the AI will have to be tested to ensure autonomous vehicles’ suitability for the roads. The testing systems in place must be feasible and occur in conjunction with manufacturers’ evidence of conformity. Legislation will need to reflect this as it is the manufacturers who will become liable in the event of an accident. Basically, manufacturers will need to be able to prove that their vehicles can operate without a driver.

Likewise, as drivers will in effect become passengers, they will need to know what is required of them and the limitations of the vehicle’s systems. This may need revised training for the driver which could become part of the standard driving test or fall within the responsibility of the manufacturer, and even necessitate an updated Highway Code if the criteria change.

Clearly, the current requirement for the driver to be in proper control of the vehicle at all times is insufficient for a vehicle driving autonomously. And, if a human driver has to be able to regain control where necessary, then the infrastructure of the road network’s connectivity between driver and car must be up to the task and secure from interference.

President of the AA, Edmund King said,

‘The automotive world is changing rapidly and so the government is right to embrace the positive changes offered by this new technology and back it by funding research and putting forward legislation. Assisted driving systems, for example, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, are already helping millions of drivers stay safe on the roads.

‘It is still quite a big leap from assisted driving, where the driver is still in control, to self-driving, where the car takes control. It is important that the government does study how these vehicles would interact with other road users on different roads and changing weather conditions. However the ultimate prize, in terms of saving thousands of lives and improving the mobility of the elderly and the less mobile, is well worth pursuing.’