The government has kicked off a process of consultation into new Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology which would see cars ‘steer’ themselves within a lane without any need for driver input.
Initially used in low-speed situations, the technology – if approved – could soon be used on motorways to help pilot cars at speeds of up to 70mph. Drivers will, however, need to be ready to take control of the vehicle when prompted by the system itself.
The government is seeking advice from the motoring industry on both the technology and the role of the driver, as well as whether the system can be implemented onto UK roads within the existing legal framework.
Rachel Maclean, transport minister, said: ‘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.
‘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 exciting technology.’
Evidence is also been sought to find out if cars equipped with the technology should legally be classed as ‘automated vehicles’. If so, it would mean that the technology provider – or manufacturer – would be liable for the safety of a vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver. It poses a unique question as to who would have to accept responsibility for a crash should an autonomous system be used at the time of an incident.
Following on from the approval of the ALKS Regualtion in June by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – of which the UK is a part of – the technology could be available on production cars in the UK as early as the spring of 2021.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: ‘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.
‘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 bringing the regulation up to speed so that the UK can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.’