The UK government has announced its roadmap for autonomous vehicles (AV), with 2025 pinpointed as the date for the widespread rollout of self-driving cars.
Let's take a look at the plans in closer detail:
What funding is expected?
It’s been announced that £105 million will be set aside over the next few years to fund and support AV projects, as well as £34 million in safety and legislative R&D.
What will this roadmap cover?
It’s crucial that legislation keeps up with AV technology as it advances rapidly. New legislation will be rolled out to build on existing laws, cover liability questions, and ensure manufacturers are accountable.
How does this help drivers? Are you responsible for accidents?
As testing of self-driving cars continues and accidents are reported, the inevitable question emerges – if you aren’t technically driving, are you liable? The answer, thanks to these latest plans, is no – the manufacturer is.
“A human driving would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.” Volvo became one of the first car manufacturers to announce it would accept liability for damages occurring when its cars are operating in self-driving mode.
This update to regulations will ease the concerns of drivers who are rightfully anxious over whether they would be accountable for blame and insurance claims.
Where does this leave safety and testing?
Some people are sceptical and cautious about autonomous driving because it’s quite a jump from assisted driving (which most drivers are used to, and are reliant on the driving assists that come in modern cars) to the car being in control and driving itself.
Even though self-driving cars are expected to be much safer, as almost 80% of road accidents are due to human error, people are still wary. The government, however, is intent on leading from the front when it comes to rolling out autonomous driving software and preparing the UK for it, in the most diligent and safety-conscious way.
The £34 million allocated for safety development will be used during a period of 'safety ambition'. This is essentially a consultation period in which the results will ensure standards are clearly set and upheld, and new laws are written to ensure AVs are as safe as possible.
What about self-driving abroad?
This is a worry for the future, but other countries like France, Germany and Japan have approved similar regulatory regimes for self-driving cars. France was, in fact, one of the first countries to have a nationwide framework in place.
At the moment there’s a mismatch as different countries roll out different levels of legislation or policy frameworks, but this is likely to become more standardised in the near future (and before anyone actually drives one – or doesn’t 'drive' in this case!)
This UK policy comes into effect this month (September), and while it won’t affect you immediately, we’ve got the inside scoop on how close we really are to self-driving cars, and the ins and outs of assisted driving tech too.
By Freda Lewis-Stempel