UK: Automated Vehicles Act Represents A New Era for Road Safety

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The Automated Vehicles Act, now a law, is set to revolutionize the UK’s transportation system by enabling self-driving vehicles to hit the roads by 2026. With a focus on reducing human error and enhancing road safety, this legislation is a significant step forward for the self-driving technology industry, promising substantial economic and societal benefits.

Key Highlights:

  • Job Creation: Over 38,000 new jobs are expected, solidifying the UK’s position in the self-driving tech industry.
  • Economic Impact: The industry could be worth up to £42 billion.
  • Road Safety: Automated vehicles aim to drastically reduce human error, which is a factor in 88% of road collisions.
  • Regulation and Safety: Self-driving vehicles must meet rigorous safety standards before being allowed on the roads.

The Automated Vehicles Act, announced in the King’s Speech and now law as of May 20, 2024, aims to harness advanced technology for safer driving on British roads. By ensuring self-driving vehicles meet stringent safety criteria, the legislation places Great Britain at the forefront of autonomous vehicle regulation, potentially generating £42 billion in industry value and creating 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

Road safety is a primary focus of this legislation. Automated vehicles are expected to improve safety significantly by reducing human errors, which contribute to 88% of road collisions. These vehicles must achieve a safety level on par with careful and competent human drivers and pass thorough safety checks before deployment. This could lead to fewer accidents related to drink driving, speeding, fatigue, and inattention.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper emphasized the transformative potential of this new law: “Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry, which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.”

The law’s passage strengthens the UK’s position as a leader in emerging industries, particularly the self-driving vehicle and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors, which are poised for significant economic growth. The AV Act follows ongoing self-driving trials across the country, with companies like Wayve and Oxa conducting trials in London and Oxford. Notably, Wayve recently secured over $1 billion in investment to advance its AI technology.

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK’s self-driving vehicle sector attracted £475 million in direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs. The technology is expected to support areas facing driver shortages, such as haulage and mining.

The new law provides a comprehensive legal framework, clarifying liability for self-driving vehicles. Drivers are assured that they won’t be held responsible while the vehicle is in self-driving mode; instead, corporations like insurance providers, software developers, and automotive manufacturers will assume responsibility.

To ensure safety, the vehicle approval system will include an independent incident investigation function, promoting a culture of learning and continuous improvement akin to the aviation industry. Companies must maintain ongoing obligations to ensure their vehicles’ safety and compliance with British laws.

Trials have demonstrated how self-driving vehicles can enhance mobility and access to services, reduce isolation, and better connect rural communities. The act expands vehicle use to millions previously unable to drive, enhancing transport accessibility across the country.

Paul Newman, Founder and CTO of Oxa, praised the legislation: “We now have autonomous vehicle legislation, which is more comprehensive in scope and clearer in its requirements than in any other country.”

Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO of Wayve, expressed optimism about the future: “This is a critical milestone for the UK’s deployment of self-driving technology and cements the UK as a global leader in regulating this sector.”

The new law follows consistent government support for the self-driving vehicle industry, with over £600 million in joint government and industry investment since 2015, fostering innovation and laying the groundwork for the early commercial market.

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Self Drive News
Self Drive News

Self Drive News is a premier B2B digital resource meticulously curated for industry professionals, stakeholders, and enthusiasts in the rapidly accelerating world of autonomous vehicles. Rooted in innovation and forward-thinking, we deliver insightful, reliable, and up-to-the-minute news, connecting the diverse and dynamic strands of the autonomous vehicle industry under one interactive platform.