UK says basic self-driving cars could be licensed by end of 2021

The British government has ad this basic self-driving cars with an Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) could hit UK roads by the end of 2021. The new designation will allow testing of such systems, allowing Britain to develop its own autonomous driving regulations and to catch up with other countries like the United States and Japan.

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) said it would “expose” (describe) how vehicles equipped with ALKS can be legally defined as autonomous, provided “there is no evidence to dispute the capability of the vehicle to be driven alone. “In other words, it creates rules which will allow ALKS systems to be legally used on UK roads.

ALKS systems, referred to as “traffic jam driver technology” by the DfT, are designed to help a vehicle stay in its lane and a safe distance from traffic, with speeds limited to 37 MPH. This allows drivers to let the car take over driving duties, but they must be prepared to take back control. This differs from current Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADS) which can only be used as aids and are not used by drivers.

“This is a major step towards the safe use of autonomous vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean. “But we need to make sure this exciting new technology is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules should look like to allow this.”

The announcement was light on details, such as how the technology can be tested and approved. As it is, ALKS systems are only available on a handful of premium cars, so the impact on the roads is likely to be minimal initially.

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