Driverless cars set for UK roads by end of the year under new plans

28 April 2021, 11:32 | Updated: 28 April 2021, 15:54

Self-driving cars could be allowed on UK roads this year
Self-driving cars could be allowed on UK roads this year. Picture: Getty Images
Naomi Bartram

By Naomi Bartram

Motorists in driverless cars will be allowed to check emails and watch TV in traffic jams.

Self-driving vehicles could be allowed on roads in Britain by the end of this year, according to government plans.

The Department for Transport has announced that cars which have been made with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS), will be legal within months.

This technology monitors speed and keeps the car at a safe distance from other vehicles using cameras and sensors.

If a it detects a collision risk, the car can brake automatically or change direction.

But the system will only allow speeds of up to 37mph (60km/h) and is solely for use on motorways with slow traffic.

Driverless cars could be on the roads by the end of the year
Driverless cars could be on the roads by the end of the year. Picture: Getty Images

Drivers won’t have to keep their hands on the wheel or look at the road when the vehicle is driving itself, until the system tells them to take over again.

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If they fail to take control of the wheel within 10 seconds when prompted, the vehicle will put on its hazard lights, slow down and eventually stop.

According to the DoT, this technology will help to ‘improve traffic flow, reduce commute times and cut emissions’.

Experts have also said the cars could help road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85% of accidents.

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Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable.

“But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like.

“In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”

The government previously said these new laws would be in place by spring this year, but this has been delayed.

The Highway Code is launching a month-long consultation to ensure the technology can be used safely and responsibly.

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