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Government launches public consultation on autonomous vehicles

Monday 11th July 2016

A consultation has been launched by the Government as it looks to continue its push to help Britain lead the way in developing driverless technology.

Published today (11 July), the public consultation centres around two key areas: updating the Highway Code and changing insurance laws.

The Government says the consultation, which remains open for nine weeks, will be the start of a ‘rolling programme of reform on the roadmap to fully automated vehicles’.

According to roads minister Andrew Jones, driverless cars are the future, and not science fiction. The Queen’s Speech in May 2016 included a modern transport bill which encourages investment in driverless and electric cars, and ensures that insurance will be available to users of driverless vehicles.

The UK Government is expecting the development of driverless cars to play a vital role in the country's economic future and as a result, has repeatedly expressed its desire to take a world lead in the area. It predicts that cars with advanced driver assistance features, such as remote control parking and motorway assist, will be on sale in Britain within four years, with automated and driverless vehicles expected from the mid-2020s onwards.

With the UK’s first public autonomous vehicle trials set to get underway later this year, the consultation will focus on changing the Highway Code to support the safe use of remote control parking and motorway assist features. It will also seek views on changing insurance laws so that motorists who have handed control to their ‘self-driving’ cars can be insured properly.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “Driverless car technology will revolutionise the way we travel and deliver better journeys.

“Britain is leading the way but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies.

“Our roads are already some of the safest in the world and increasing advanced driver assist and driverless technologies have the potential to help cut the number of accidents further.”

Separately, the government will next month launch a competition for a further £30m from the Intelligent Mobility Fund, for research and development of innovative connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Sajid Javid, business secretary, said: “Britain’s auto industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and research.

“This additional £30m of funding for research and development (R&D) is a further sign of our commitment to making sure we’re creating opportunities for UK businesses to thrive and attract global investment in world-class technology.”

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One of the questions raised by this consultation is about insurance. My question would be that as there are already such vehicles out there on our roads at this present time are they insured or not? In asking the question, what is the truth - are they presently insured and if so the question doesn't exist any more. Or not?
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
+1

Keith, the Google prototype Self-Driving Car doesn't have a steering wheel or any apparent controls other than an on/off button - so there is no way to manually take control of it (watch their video at https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/). Its target users include those with no ability to drive (including the elderly, the infirm and the visually impaired) and those who want to spend their journey time doing something other than driving. A driving licence will not be necessary - everyone will be able to use one - and crashes will be virtually eliminated!
Charles, England

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
+1

Charles,
As I understand it, I thought there would always be a need for a passive driver being capable of taking control of the vehicle. What would be the situation regarding, training, licencing, insurance, culpability and so on if there is never going to be an individual in capable of taking control. I guess in the unlikley event of injuries or fatality as the designers suggest potential claims will be huge.

No one as yet has responded to any of my past comments about the use of such vehicles in the under developed countries. Or is this just a toy for the rich developed countries?
Keith

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)
0

Keith, as I understand it, there won't be a "driver", as such, in fully autonomous vehicles, just passengers.

From what I can gather though, the recent ill-fated Tesla was not such a vehicle - it was a normal car with an "autopilot" driving aid. This feature can control speed and steer the car in certain circumstances, but when the feature is switched on, the driver is still expected to keep their hands on the steering wheel and remain alert and aware enough to take back full control if necessary.
Charles, England

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)
+6

Can I ask if anyone has any ideas of what the passive driver is expected to do while the vehicle is under autonomous mode.

Are they expected to be able to relax and undertake other activities or are they expected to be monitoring the vehicle ready to take over if an issue occurrs.
Keith

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
+5

The first fatal crash caused by an autonomous car (a Tesla) happened very recently in Florida when, according to media reports, the car apparently failed to identify a large lorry crossing its path ahead and continued to drive into it at speed, unfortunately killing the driver of the Tesla. Back to the drawing board I think.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)
+5

Tim - we will be asking one of our specialists to have a look at the document and prepare a response. We will publicise that once completed.
iain Temperton - Director of Communications RSGB

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)
+5

Does RSGB have an official position regarding these proposals along with the rationale used to come to that conclusion. On the face of it, the proposals seem logical and proportionate to me at this time, but I may be missing something that others should rightly draw my, and other members attention to, so that we are all fully informed and can respond accordingly.
Tim Draper - Leeds

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)
+7