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Self-Driving Cars On UK Roads In 2021

By Stephen Turvil | May 4, 2021


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Self-driving cars that steer, accelerate, and brake for you could be on the UK's road in 2021

Self-Driving Cars On UK Roads In 2021

Brace yourself! Self-driving cars might be permitted on public roads in the United Kingdom during 2021, the Department for Transport revealed after confirming that cars with an Automated Lane Keeping System can be ‘legally defined as self-driving'. All cars will require GB Type Approval which confirms they meet certain safety standards.

How Automated Lane Keeping System works

An Automated Lane Keeping System keeps the car in lane on the motorway, at up to 37 mph, by turning the steering wheel and/or braking specific wheels. In addition, it controls the throttle and brakes to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead. However, the driver can take over as preferred or necessary.

Automated Lane Keeping relies on cameras, radar sensors, and a great deal of computing power to see and interpret the surroundings. It is also an evolution of existing systems that have been available for a number of years. In summary, they include:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control (increases and decreases the vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance to the traffic ahead)
  • Lane Keeping Assistance (monitors the position of the car relative to the lane markings then warns the driver if it wanders off line).

The Government suggested that self-driving cars could make the roads far safer and minimise the number of motorists killed, injured, and traumatised by collisions. Why? Because human error contributes towards 85% of such incidents. It further suggested that self-driving cars might ‘ease congestion’ and ‘cut emissions’. 

Motor industry welcomes self-driving cars

The Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders represents the interests of the motor industry. It wants self-drive technology to become commonplace. Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said: ‘The automotive industry welcomes this vital step to permit the use of automated vehicles on roads. It will put Britain in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology’, Mr Hawes added.

Safety concerns

Automated Lane Keeping System technology has its critics, though. Some experts claim it is misleading to suggest it makes a car ‘self-drive’. They say it more realistically ‘assists’ the driver rather than replaces. Much like normal cruise control, for example.

The AA’s President, Edmund King, is among the experts who have concerns. ‘Automated Lane Keeping should be classified as assisted driving technology’, he argued. ‘It is a world away from self-driving.’ Among other things, he is worried about how it reacts if there is a collision. Mr King suggested that more ‘rigorous’ testing is needed before the technology is let loose on the public.

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