UK self-driving cars
(Photo : Pexels/ Maksim Gonchare) Self-driving cars in the UK

Self-driving cars is expected to be allowed on UK highways by the end of 2021, according to the United Kingdom government.

The Department for Transport said that automated lane-keeping systems or ALKS would be the first type of hands-free driving legalized.

Self-Driving Cars Legalization

The technology controls the position and the speed of a car in a single lane and it will be limited to 37mph or 60km per hour.

But insurers have warned the government's definition of ALKS as self-driving is misleading.

Previously, the UK government had said these new laws would be in place by spring this year, and told the BBC that there was no delay in its suggested timeframes.

Also Read: Study Says Self-Driving Cars Are Safer Than Human-Driven Vehicles: Should You Believe It?

Hands-Free Driving

Following a consultation in 2020, the UK government has now said that cars with ALKS technology can be legally defined as self-driving as long as they get GB type approval, and that there is no evidence to challenge the car's ability to self-drive.

The government also confirmed that drivers will not be required to monitor the road or to keep their hands on the wheel when the car is driving itself. But the driver will need to stay alert and they need to be able to take over when requested by the system within 10 seconds.

If the driver does not respond, the car will automatically put on its hazard lights to warn nearby vehicles, slow down, and stop.

 According to AutoCar, the Highway Code is now consulting on what rules will be placed into new laws to make sure that the technology is safe to use.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean stated that the new road rules is a major step for the safe use of self-driving cars in the UK. Maclean added that the new technology must be safe before it is deployed. 

Human Error

The technology itself could help improve road safety by reducing human error, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders via Sky News.

Chief executive Mike Hawes said that automated driving systems could help prevent 47,000 serious accidents, and save more than 3,000 lives over the next 10 years through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents, which is human error.

Hawes added that technologies like Automated Lane Keeping Systems will pave the way for higher levels of automation in future.

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 the roads remain among the safest in the world.

Vehicle manufacturers are adding technology similar to ALKS, such as Tesla, which has the autopilot feature. It is considered as level two on the five levels of self-driving cars.

Level three, on the other hand, would not need the driver's attention at all times, and in theory, the driver could do other things like watch a movie or be on their phone, until the car prompts them to take over the wheel again.

However, there have been several incidents involving this technology when drivers did not pay attention on the road.

In 2018, a resident from Nottingham was banned from driving after he climbed into the passenger seat of his Tesla on the highway, according to BBCMeanwhile a fatal crash in the United States was caused by the driver playing a video game while leaving his car in autopilot mode before it drove into a concrete barrier.

Related Article: Self-Driving Cars Caused More Speeding and Car Crash Cases, Study Shows

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Written by Sophie Webster

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