Self-driving cars could hit UK motorways in 2021

Automated technology would take control of self-driving vehicles at low speeds and keep them in lane

Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads as early as spring 2021 after the UK government launched a consultation on incorporating automated technology into cars.

Britain's Transport Ministry said it would allow a system to take control of a car at low speeds to keep in lane on motorways for an extended period of time. The driver, however, must be prepared to take over control of the vehicle.

Junior transport minister Rachel Maclean said the hands-free system would help make driving smoother and safer.

The move has been backed by industry leaders including Mike Hawes, the head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

“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,” he said.

“This advanced technology is ready for roll-out in new models from as early as 2021, so today’s 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.”

As part of a call for evidence, the government is after the opinion of experts over legal status. If classed as an automated vehicle, it would mean the technology provider would be held responsible for safety when the Automated Lane Keeping System was in use, and not the driver.

Edmund King, the president of the British motoring association known as the AA, said industry enterprise in the past 50 years such as airbags and anti-lock braking systems had helped save thousands of lives.

“The government is right to be consulting on the latest collision-avoidance system, which has the potential to make our roads even safer in the future,” Mr King said.