Driverless cars are a hot topic in the UK today (6 February 2019) thanks to a Government announcement on “advanced trials for self-driving vehicles”.
Stories ran in most of the biggest-selling newspapers focusing on the removal of the requirement for a safety driver. Actually, all the Department for Transport (DfT) committed itself to was to develop a process to help support advanced trials of automated vehicles.
Automotive Minister, Richard Harrington, said: “We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021. The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”
The door to the removal of safety drivers is opened in point 1.4 of the introduction, on page 5 of the newly updated Code of Practice: Automated vehicle trialling (pictured).
It states that: “The Government acknowledges the desire to conduct advanced trials on public roads. Such trials may not readily fit within current UK legislation, so the Department for Transport’s motoring agencies will introduce and operate a process to support those looking to safely conduct advanced trials.”
The DfT emphasised that the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) must be informed in advance and trials would not be supported unless they pass rigorous safety assessments.
So, what have we learnt? That “advanced trials” in this context is broadly a euphemism for road tests without a safety driver, and that the timetable for implementation is ambitious: “for self-driving cars on our roads by 2021”.
With the lack of clarity around The driverless dilemma: who to save in no-win crash situations and a plethora of other unresolved issues, there is much to debate.
The fact is today’s announcement brings us closer to having driverless cars on UK roads.