UK government pledges to get driverless cars on the road by 2021

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The UK is pushing forward with its efforts to get autonomous, self-driving cars on the road by 2021 after publishing its Code of Practice guidelines for automated vehicle trialling.

The document covers the process of advanced trials of automated vehicles on public roads, including a number of requirements for companies that will ensure safe testing.

Along with more transparent guidelines, the UK government is supporting the development of self-driving cars by allowing vehicle trials on any UK road (providing they are compliant with UK law) as well as the chance to ditch a safety driver.

The document states that vehicles will be allowed to test on public roads using a remote driver, rather than a human behind the wheel or even in the car, providing the remote driver is able to intervene at any moment. Experts have responded to the new code of practice, particularly the news of being able to perform tests without an onboard safety driver.

“It’s encouraging to see the UK government demonstrating such ambition with regards to the future of transport. Autonomous cars have the potential to massively reduce congestion and their environmental impact, while making transport cheaper and safer. However, while there is excitement about what driverless cars will mean for the future of mobility, there is still understandably a degree of nervousness – we’re in the very early stages of the journey to driverless, not just because the technology isn’t yet fully ready but also because the public may not be,” said Chris Patton from the EMEIA Transport team at Fujitsu.

The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) welcomes the DfT’s update as a positive move toward a transparent template for automated vehicle trials that will accelerate delivery and boost public acceptance of these new technologies.

“Looking to the future, this latest guidance from DfT is a welcome move toward a more transparent and open platform for connected and automated vehicle (CAV) trials here in the UK,” said Dr David Hynd, chief scientist at TRL.

“With experience gained from involvement across a number of the major CAV trials in the UK, TRL is at the heart of developing robust safety cases for vehicles that are fit for an automated future.

“In welcoming the changes, we also acknowledge the need for the implementation of international safety standards that will elevate road transport to the same level of safety, scrutiny and sharing of best practice that exists within the aviation industry.”

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