The UK government said "a process is being developed to support the advanced trials of automated vehicles" though advanced trials will not be supported unless they have passed rigorous safety assessments.
In response to feedback from industry, the government has also announced that its claimed world leading code of practice for testing automated vehicles would be strengthened to set even clearer expectations for safe and responsible trials.
"With the UK's market for connected and automated vehicles estimated to be worth GBP52bn by 2035, this is a major boost to a sector open to investment from the world's brightest transport technology companies. It also demonstrates that the government is on track to meet its commitment to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021, as part of the government's modern Industrial Strategy," a statement from multiple departments and two MPs said.
The code of practice, first published in 2015, makes clear that automated vehicle trials are possible on any UK road provided they are compliant with UK law – including testing with a remote driver. The update to the code acknowledges the growing desire of industry to conduct more advanced trials, and a process to handle such trials on public roads is now being developed.
Under the strengthened code, those carrying out trials for automated vehicles will be expected to publish safety information, trial performance reports and to carry out risks assessments before conducting a trial. Trialling organisations are also expected to inform the relevant authorities, emergency services, and anyone who might be affected by trial activity.
Thatcham research director Matthew Avery said: "We support the government's ambition to position the UK at the vanguard of technology development. We also welcome the advent of fully automated cars and the many benefits to mobility and car safety they will bring. However, the desire to accelerate the implementation of these technologies while keeping all road users safe is a delicate balancing act. Safety must be a key priority, and this must not be compromised to achieve a leadership position."