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August 21, 2020

UK launches automated control consultation

Britain's government is undertaking a consultation on an automated system capable of taking vehicle control.

By Rhodri Morgan

Britain’s government is undertaking a consultation on an automated system capable of taking vehicle control.

The UK is launching a call for evidence to help shape how new systems could be used in future on British roads.

The call for evidence will look at the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS), which can take control of vehicles at low speeds, keeping it in lane on motorways.

The technology is designed to enable drivers – for the first time – to delegate the task of driving to the vehicle. When activated, the system keeps the vehicle within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything. The driver must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.

The government is seeking views from industry on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of this system to pave the way towards introducing it safely in the UK within the current legal framework.

The call for evidence will ask whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.

The call for evidence also seeks views on government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at speeds of up to 70mph.

“Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists and the UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies,” said Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean. 

“The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this call for evidence could be a significant step forward for this technology.”

Following the approval of ALKS Regulation in June, 2020 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), of which the UK is a member, the technology is likely to be available in cars entering the UK market from spring, 2021.

The government says it is acting now to ensure regulation is ready where necessary for its introduction.

“Automated technologies for vehicles, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade,” added SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes.

“This advanced technology is ready for roll out in new models from as early as 2021, so [the] announcement is a welcome step in preparing the UK for its use, so we can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.”

By issuing a call for evidence, a Departement for Transport (DfT) statement noted it was giving those with information or concerns about ALKS technology, an opportunity to help shape future policy.

In late 2020, it plans to launch a public consultation on the detail of any changes to legislation and The Highway Code that are proposed, which will include a summary of responses to the call for evidence.

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