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British Roads Could See Hands-Free Cars As Early As Spring ‘21

Sun Aug 23 2020

Government launches consultation to assess automated lane-keeping technology for British roads.

The UK Government last week launched a consultation till the 27th of October ’20 into new, cutting edge Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) technology.

This technology allows for hands free driving on motorways (under certain conditions) making longer road journeys safer for all drivers.

 

The consultation, being run by the Department for Transport (DfT), was launched on Tuesday (18th Aug) to look for evidence that ALKS could be safely introduced in the UK.

ALKS tech allows for the automatic steering of cars (at low speeds) with no control needed from the driver.

The system needs to be manually activated by the driver, but once it has been it’s capable of controlling the lateral and longitudinal movements of the vehicle, keeping it steady in a single lane for long periods of time.

However, currently, the driver does need to be ready to take control of the vehicle if the system feels it’s necessary (so napping on long journeys just yet)!

The consultation will seek expert advice on the technology as to if and how the technology can be both safely introduced to Britain’s roads, and in line with current legislation.

The Department of Transports consultation also needs to answer the question as to whether this technology would mean a vehicle can be defined as ‘automated, as this would mean the manufacturers technology would be responsible for the driver and vehicles safety in the eyes of the law whilst it’s in use. 

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Automated vehicle technology has the potential to transform the way we travel. It could improve connections for rural communities, help deliver essential goods to people's doors, and give everyone better access to education, to work or simply allow them to see friends and family more often. I want the UK to be the first country to see these benefits and to encourage manufacturers to deploy this transformative technology on our roads by delivering the right environment for it to thrive.

We are already familiar and comfortable with automation in aircraft, and I am keen that we embrace it on our roads too.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport

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Requirements for ALKS technology being used on motorways have previously been specified by the UN Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE) last June in regulations thought to take effect next year.

 

If all goes well we could see the technology being used on our roads as early as spring ’21, however, currently the technology will only be available on motorways, and only up to speeds of 37mph (in line with current legislation) but the consultation will be looking at increasing that speed eventually to 70mph.

 

When asked for comment, Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said:

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Autonomous vehicle technologies, 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.

Mike Hawes – CEO, SMMT

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Sun Aug 23 2020

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