UK government announces major consultation to prepare for driverless technologies

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The UK government is determined that the country will lead the way globally in embracing the safe development of driverless vehicle technologies and has announced a new program of reform to make the roads ready for advanced driver assistance and ‘self-driving’ systems.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a major consultation to help pave the way for automated cars to be used on UK roads, with all drivers invited to have their say. Under the proposed measures in the ‘Pathway to Driverless Cars’ document published by the DfT and the Center for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (C-CAV), rules will be changed so that automated vehicles can be insured for use on the roads. In addition, the ‘Highway Code’ and regulations are to be altered so advanced driver assistance systems that change lanes on the motorway, and park the vehicle by remote control, can be used safely. Separately, the government will next month launch a competition for a further £30m (US$39m) from the Intelligent Mobility Fund for research and development of innovative CAV technologies.

The consultation will last for nine weeks, and is the start of a rolling program of reform on the roadmap to fully automated vehicles. The proposed changes to insurance will be brought forward in the Modern Transport Bill. Motor insurance will remain compulsory, but will be extended to cover product liability for automated vehicles. When a motorist has handed control to their vehicle, they can be reassured that their insurance will be there if anything goes wrong. The driver’s insurer will still pay out in the normal way so road accident victims are promptly reimbursed – but the insurer will then be able to claim the money back from the car company if the vehicle is deemed to be at fault.

“Driverless car technology will revolutionize the way we travel, and deliver better journeys,” noted UK transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin. “Britain is leading the way, but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies. Our roads are already some of the safest in the world, and increasing advanced driver assist and driverless technologies have the potential to help cut the number of accidents further.”

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said, “The ABI’s Automated Driving Insurer Group has been engaged in constructive and productive discussions with the DfT for many months now, so it is good to see the importance of insurance to the vehicles of the future recognized within this consultation. The development of automated driving will revolutionize motoring, potentially as important a road safety innovation as the seatbelt. Insurers strongly support the government’s ambition of making the UK a world leader in this technology, and believe the insurance industry has a key role in helping give consumers confidence in using these vehicles when they become more widely available.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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