Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads by 2026

Posted: 22 May 2024 | | No comments yet

The UK is set to revolutionise transportation with the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act, enabling self-driving vehicles on British roads by 2026 and potentially creating a £42 billion industry and 38,000 jobs by 2035.

Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads by 2026

Credit: UK Government

Self-driving vehicles could be navigating British roads as soon as 2026, following the UK government’s landmark Automated Vehicles (AV) Act, which became law on 20 May 2024. Announced in the King’s Speech, this legislation places the UK at the forefront of self-driving technology regulation, paving the way for a potential £42 billion industry and the creation of 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

Central to the AV Act is road safety, with automated vehicles anticipated to significantly reduce human error, a factor in 88% of road collisions. The law mandates that self-driving vehicles must achieve a safety level equivalent to that of careful and competent human drivers and pass rigorous safety checks before deployment. This could lead to a substantial decrease in incidents related to drink driving, speeding, fatigue, and inattention.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “While this doesn’t take away people’s ability to choose to drive themselves, our landmark legislation means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026, in a real boost to both safety and our economy.”

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK self-driving vehicle sector attracted £475 million in direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs. Self-driving technology promises to alleviate driver shortages in sectors such as haulage and improve safety in hazardous jobs like mining.

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The AV Act establishes a comprehensive legal framework, clarifying liability for self-driving vehicles. For the first time, corporations such as insurance providers, software developers and automotive manufacturers will assume responsibility when vehicles operate in self-driving mode. An independent incident investigation function will support the vehicle approval system, ensuring continuous safety improvements akin to the aviation industry’s practices.

In addition, the legislation is expected to enhance transport accessibility, particularly for those in rural areas, by improving mobility and reducing isolation.

With over £600 million in joint government and industry investment since 2015, the UK has laid a strong foundation for the self-driving vehicle industry. This funding has supported the creation of new companies and the development of the AV supply chain, setting the stage for the commercial roll-out of self-driving technology.