UK roads could welcome self-driving cars by 2025

Technology could revolutionise transport and help reduce collisions

Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car is displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Uber launched a groundbreaking driverless car service, stealing ahead of Detroit auto giants and Silicon Valley rivals with technology that could revolutionize transportation.  / AFP PHOTO / Angelo Merendino
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Plans to introduce self-driving cars to British roads were announced on Friday.

Fully self-driving cars could be on UK roads by 2025, while some vehicles that have self-driving features could be cleared for use by as early as next year.

Under the £100 million UK government plan, the fledgling industry could become a sector worth £42 billion and employ 38,000 people.

New legislation includes £34m to be spent on safety developments and will allow the widespread roll-out of the vehicles by 2025.

A further £20m will be used to help launch commercial self-driving services such as grocery deliveries and passenger shuttle pods.

“The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“Not only can they improve people’s access to education and other vital services, but the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country.

“Most importantly, they’re expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions.

A Cruise self-driving car outside the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. Reuters

“We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using this fantastic technology, and that is why we are investing millions in vital research into safety and setting the legislation to ensure we gain the full benefits that this technology promises.”

The government said self-driving vehicles for use on motorways could be on sale within the next year, but these would still require a valid driving licence so drivers could use the vehicle on other roads.

This BMW i7 is equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving up to 60 kilometres per hour and can self-park. Photo: BMW

Other self-driving vehicles, such as those used for public transport or deliveries — which the government wants on roads by 2025 — could be used without a driving licence, as they would be completely autonomous.

“It is still quite a big leap from assisted driving, where the driver is still in control, to self-driving, where the car takes control,” said Automobile Association president Edmund King.

“It is important that the government does study how these vehicles would interact with other road users on different roads and changing weather conditions.

“However the ultimate prize, in terms of saving thousands of lives and improving the mobility of the elderly and the less mobile, is well worth pursuing.”

Further into the future, self-driving cars could offer on-demand trips and help co-ordinate chore travel such as medical appointments or the school run.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 11:01 PM
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