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LONDON —The United Kingdom has become the first country to announce it will regulate the use of self-driving vehicles at slow speeds on motorways.
“Motorists could see self-driving vehicles on British roads for the first time later this year,” the UK’s Department for Transport said in a press release early Wednesday.
The transport department said it was working on specific wording to update the country's highway code for the safe use of self-driving vehicle systems, starting with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) technology — which use sensors and software to keep cars within a lane, allowing them to accelerate and brake without driver input.
The technology could improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85 percent of accidents. The driver will be able to hand control over to the vehicle, which will constantly monitor speed and keep a safe distance from other cars, according to the statement.
Commenting on the announcement, Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better.”
“But 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, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower,” he added.
Self-driving technology in cars, buses and delivery vehicles could spark the beginning of the end of urban congestion, with traffic lights and vehicles speaking to each other to keep traffic flowing, reducing emissions and improving air quality in our towns and cities, the minister said.
“As we build back better, connected and autonomous vehicle technology could create around 38,000 new jobs in a UK industry that could be worth £42 billion by 2035. Over 80 percent of these jobs are expected to be in professional, technical and skilled trade occupations.”
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