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Self-driving vehicles could be on UK roads by 2025

Fully self-driving vehicles could be on UK roads by 2025. That’s after new plans were today published by the British Government to speed up the rollout of these vehicles.

Some vehicles, including cars, coaches and lorries, with self-driving features could be operating on motorways in the next year, the UK Government said, but motorists would still need a licence to use them on different types of roads.

Others that are completely autonomous, and could be used for deliveries for example, wouldn’t need a licence and could be up and running in three years’ time if these ambitious plans are successful.

The British Government also said that new laws would make manufacturers responsible for a vehicle’s actions when self-driving is completely in control, meaning a human driver would not be liable for accidents.

Today’s announcement is backed by a total of £100 million, with £34 million confirmed for research to support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation.

Jonathan Hewett, chief executive of Thatcham Research welcomed his Government’s plans, and said the UK has “all the ingredients” to become a global leader in this space.

“Ensuring that safe adoption is at the centre of its plans will play a pivotal role in realising the societal benefits of self-driving technology,” he said.

“The cars we drive are changing at an unprecedented rate. But the automotive industry is still at the lower end of a steep learning curve.

“It’s vital that we balance the risk with the opportunity, gathering intelligence on the different use cases for the technology and in turn understanding what it means for all road users.”

However, Hewett warned that any challenges encountered by vehicles with self-driving capability will be “heavily scrutinised”.

“It is paramount that we make sense of the data these vehicles will provide, to inform risk and ultimately pave the way for safe adoption.

“Complete clarity around the driver’s legal responsibilities, along with how the technology is marketed, how the dealer describes systems when handing over the keys and how the self-driving system itself communicates with the driver, will play its part too.

“As such, collaboration between Government, regulators, carmakers and the insurance industry will be essential to creating a safe system for adoption and the age of humankind interacting with autonomous technology,” he said.