Cars with automated driving features could be on UK motorways later this year

Cars with automated driving features could be on UK motorways later this year
Motorists could soon be enjoying motorway travel in cars equipped with automated driving technology, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

Vehicles fitted with an Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) could be allowed to be used on UK highways in slow traffic for speeds of up to 37mph by the end of 2021.

The decision for this automated driving feature to be permitted follows a call for evidence launched by the Government last August to consider the safety of ALKS.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said “We must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like. In doing so, we can improve transport for all.”

A consultation on changes to The Highway Code has been launched to ensure automated driving systems are used safely and responsibly.

While the government has said the technology could improve road safety by reducing human error – which contributes to 85% of accidents –industry experts have questioned the technology’s capabilities.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said humans are “invariably the weak link” when it comes to safe driving, but warned there are “challenges” when journeys involve a transfer of control between technology and the person behind the wheel.

He added: “There is a risk of situations in which drivers over-rely on the automated system, expecting it to deal with events for which it is neither intended nor capable.

“And what happens when drivers are expected to take back control in an emergency? Research for us shows that it can take drivers several seconds to regain command of their vehicle.”

ALKS lets a driver effectively hand over control to the vehicle, to drive in a single lane while also monitoring speed and distance – but motorists must be ready to resume control if required.

Despite how the government presents ALKS, Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research points out the systems are not strictly automated, but are instead “assisted driving systems” due to their part reliance on the driver.

He said: “Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK Government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led o many tragic deaths.

“A widespread and effective ongoing communications campaign led by the automotive industry and supported by insurers and safety organisations is essential if we are going to address current and future misconceptions and misuse.”

How do you feel about automated driving? Are you grateful for the support during slower traffic, or unsure about handing over control? Let us know in the comments.

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