UK begins consultation on removing driver responsibility for automated lane keeping


The UK is taking steps forward in automated technology in vehicles with the launch of a call for evidence to help shape how innovative new systems could be used in future on roads – and who will be responsible for them.

The call for evidence will look at the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS). Currently drivers are still fully responsible for the vehicle when they activate such systems, but the new research will look at whether liability should shift to automakers, in an important step along the path to fully automated vehicles.

The call for evidence will ask whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.

The call for evidence also seeks views on government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at speeds of up to 70mph.

“Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists and the UK should be the first country to see the full benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies,” says transport minister Rachel Maclean. “The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this call for evidence could be a significant step forward for this exciting technology.”

But the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) sounded a note of caution, urging the government to also consider the quality of the infrastructure and road markings that support this technology.

“The RSMA supports any move to improve safety for the road user, however, my concern is that government is putting the cart in front of the horse, or in this case the car before the infrastructure,” says RSMA CEO Stu McInroy. “The government must understand the importance of ensuring the basic infrastructure exists to support this advanced and highly capable technology.

“ALKS technology relies heavily on high-quality road markings to allow the vehicle to ‘read the road’. As road markings age and become worn, they lose reflectivity, and in some cases cannot be seen even by the human eye. Road markings professionally applied and maintained by a National Highways Sector Scheme 7 certified contractor are a minor part of the expense in bringing this capability to our roads, but are the pivotal element that shall determine success or failure.

“Only when our road network is adequately funded and maintained will vehicles using ALKS be able to operate as intended and cement the government’s desire to become a world leader in automated-vehicle technology.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).