Following the government plans to scrap the dedicated safety driver requirement in driverless cars, the vehicles could be on Britain’s roads by the end of the year. The Department of Transport has predicted that this change has the potential to make the UK a front-runner in driverless technology.
Currently, autonomous cars in the UK which wish to be trialled on public roads must be ‘roadworthy’, with a driver (either remote or in-vehicle) vigilant and ready to take over control of the car if need be. The change in rules from the UK government will therefore provide more freedom for how driverless cars are tested.
The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), has stated: “The government is aware of the growing desire to conduct more advanced trials on public roads. Such trials may currently be outside of the law and may require support and facilitation from the Department for Transport to proceed.” In order to facilitate this, CCAV claims that the Department of Transport will “develop and operate a process to support advanced trials on public roads.”
Many trials have been carried out in the UK over recent years to test the technology, and the Department of Transport is reportedly expected to release a new code, which tightens safety standards on speed, braking, and other road users.
Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, has been quoted: “Today we are updating our guidance on automated vehicle trials, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in the development and testing of this innovative technology.”
However, the change in law towards driverless cars has been met with some criticism, as just last year, a woman in Arizona was killed in an accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle – a vehicle which even had the added safety net of a remote human driver. With stories such as this still feeling fresh, there are arguments being made that the technology is still too young to be tested on public roads without back up drivers in place.