Government launches consultation on automated lane-keeping technology to enable hands-free driving on British roads

2020-08-19

The UK government has launched a new consultation into ground-breaking Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) technology which would allow hands-free driving on motorways in certain conditions.

On Tuesday, to see if ALKS can be safely introduced in the UK.

ALKS technology can take control of a car at low speeds without requiring any input from the driver. When activated by the driver, the system controls the lateral and longitudinal movements of the vehicle and keeps it in the lane for extended periods of time. However, the driver should be ready to take control of the vehicle when prompted by the system to do so.

Through the consultation, the government is seeking experts' views on how the technology can be safely introduced in Great Britain, within the current legal framework.

In addition, the government also wants to know if a vehicle using the technology can be legally defined as an . If so, the company providing the technology would be held responsible for vehicle's safety when the system is in use.

The requirements for the safe functioning of ALKS system on motorways have been specified in a UN Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE) regulation that was adopted in June and is expected to take effect next year.

Initially the system would only be used on motorways at speeds below 37 mph, to comply with current regulations. However, the DfT is also considering that ALKS system could eventually be allowed at speeds of up to 70 mph, potentially making long road journeys safer and smoother for drivers.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), ALKS and other automated driving systems could save 3,900 lives on British roads in the next 10 years.

Mike Hawes, CEO of the SMMT, commented: "Autonomous vehicle technologies, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade."

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said: "Automated vehicle technology has the potential to transform the way we travel. It could improve connections for rural communities, help deliver essential goods to people's doors, and give everyone better access to education, to work or simply allow them to see friends and family more often."

"I want the UK to be the first country to see these benefits and to encourage manufacturers to deploy this transformative technology on our roads by delivering the right environment for it to thrive. We are already familiar and comfortable with automation in aircraft, and I am keen that we embrace it on our roads too."

If found safe to use, drivers could see ALKS technology on UK vehicles by Spring 2021.

The consultation closes on 27th October 2020.