The government has launched a consultation to weigh up how advanced driver assistance technology could be used to improve road safety. In particular, the Department for Transport (DfT) has issued a call for evidence for automated lane keeping systems (ALKS), which keeps the vehicle within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything.
Although the DfT says the system can “take over control of the vehicle at low speeds”, the department is proposing the use of the technology at speeds of up to 70 mph. According to the government, this will allow drivers to “delegate the task of driving” for the first time ever.
However, if such technology is approved for use in the UK, the government has said the driver will have to remain ready to resume control of the vehicle when prompted by the vehicle. The DfT claims the technology is likely to be available in new cars from spring next year, and action is needed now to ensure regulations are ready for its introduction.
As part of the call for evidence, the government is looking for input from the industry to find out whether proposed rules will “pave the way” for ALKS to be used safely in Britain within existing legal frameworks. The call for evidence will also ask whether vehicles using this technology should be defined as automated vehicles, which would make the technology provider, rather than the driver, responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged.
Furthermore, the DfT says the consultation gives those with “information or concerns” about the technology the opportunity to “help shape future policy”. However, transport minister Rachel Maclean said the UK was leading the charge, and hoped the country could attract manufacturers wanting to develop and test such technology.
“Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists,” she said. “The UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies. The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this call for evidence could be a significant step forward for this exciting technology.”
Meanwhile the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK’s car makers and dealers, said the technology could save 3,900 lives in 10 years.
“Automated technologies for vehicles, 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,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “This advanced technology is ready for roll out in new models from as early as 2021, so today’s announcement is a welcome step in preparing the UK for its use, so we can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.”