Self-driving cars to be on U.K. roads by 2021

Fully self-driving cars could be on U.K. roads by 2021.

U.K.'s Department of Transport updated its code of practice for automated vehicles to allow cars to be tested without a driver in the vehicle. Photo by Ennio Leanza
U.K.’s Department of Transport updated its code of practice for automated vehicles to allow cars to be tested without a driver in the vehicle. Photo by Ennio Leanza

The U.K’s Department of Transport updated its code of practice for testing automated vehicles Wednesday permitting cars to be tested without a dedicated safety driver in the vehicle.
“The update to the code acknowledges the growing desire of the industry to conduct more advanced trials, and a process to handle such trials on public roads is now being developed,” the department said in a media release.

The move is in-line with the government’s commitment to have driverless vehicles on U.K. roads within two years, it said.
“Thanks to the U.K.’s world-class research base, this country is in the vanguard of the development of new transport technologies, including automation,” Future of Mobility minister Jess Norman said in a statement. “The government is supporting the safe, transparent trialing of this pioneering technology, which could transform the way we travel.”

The department also said the plans to strengthen the code, first published in 2015, include those conducting trials of automated vehicles to publish safety information, trial performance reports and carry out risk assessment.

Relevant authorities, emergency services and anyone else who might be affected by these trials must also be contacted by trial operators, the updated code said.
“We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021,” automotive minister Richard Harrington said. “The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”

The Department of Transport called the updates a “strong signal of support” for the U.K. driverless automotive industry, which it estimates will be worth $67 billion by 2035.

ByDarryl Coote