Self-driving cars in 2021

In 1968 the movie ‘The Love Bug’ was released and introduced, perhaps everyone’s favourite VW Beetle, Herbie. A little bit of Disney magic allowed Herbie to drive by itself and give him the power of sentience allowing for a real bond between car and driver.

Fast forward to 2021 and the Government has announced plans to allow self-driving cars on UK roads by the end of the year. The Department for Transport has said vehicles which use Automated Lane-Keeping Systems (ALKS), would be the first “self-driving” vehicles allowed to travel on our roads legally.

What is “hands free” driving?

Following on from consultation last year, the government has deemed vehicles with ALKS tech to be defined as self-driving if there is no evidence to challenge the vehicles’ ability to self-drive. This means drivers will not be required to monitor the road or even need to keep their hands on the wheel when the vehicle is driving itself.

This does not mean you can have a nap whilst driving however, as drivers will still need to be alert to the dangers around them and be able to take back control of the vehicle when requested by the system. If there is no response from the driver, the vehicle will put the hazard warning lights on and eventually come to a stop.

Safety in numbers.

With the introduction of this technology, we could see an improvement in road safety by reducing the amount of “human error”, which leads to accidents occurring on the roads.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders believes “automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error”.

More testing required.

Whilst the introduction of self-driving cars is inevitable, Thatcham Research, which conducts safety tests for motor insurers, urged caution over defining ALKS as ‘self-driving’.

The AA has also urged caution. Edmund King, President of the AA said “Without doubt vehicle safety technology can save lives, but we shouldn’t be in a race to take drivers’ hands off the wheel. There are still gaps in how this technology detects and stops if the vehicle is involved in a collision. More needs to be done to rigorously test these systems before they are use on UK roads”.

What will be next?