Self-driving vehicles set to be on roads by 2026 as Automated Vehicles Act becomes law



Self-driving vehicles set to be on roads by 2026 as Automated Vehicles Act becomes law

  • Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads in just two years as new law receives Royal Assent
  • Move could create over 38,000 new jobs, cementing Britain’s position at forefront of self-driving tech industry
  • Travel set to be revolutionised by £42 billion sector, increasing road safety and unlocking opportunities for those who currently can’t drive

Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads by 2026, after the Government’s Automated Vehicles (AV) Act became law today (20 May).  

Announced in the King’s Speech, the AV Act enables advanced technology to safely drive vehicles on British roads. The new law puts Great Britain firmly at the forefront of self-driving technology regulation, unlocking the potential of an industry estimated to be worth up to £42 billion and creating 38,000 more skilled jobs by 2035.  

Road safety is at the heart of the legislation, claims the UK government with automated vehicles expected to improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to 88 percent of road collisions. 

The law will require self-driving vehicles to achieve a level of safety at least as high as careful and competent human drivers, as well as meeting rigorous safety checks before being allowed onto roads.

Says Transport Secretary Mark Harper:

“Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution, and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.   

“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.” 

It is hoped the passage of the Act will bolster the UK’s position as a world leader in emerging industries, with both the self-driving vehicle and AI sectors bringing huge potential for economic growth as they develop.

The AV Act follows self-driving trials already taking place across the country. For example, home-grown British companies Wayve and Oxa are trialling self-driving cars in London and Oxford. This month it was revealed Wayve had secured more than $1 billion in investment to develop its AI technology further here in the UK.

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK self-driving vehicle sector alone generated £475 million of direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs. Self Driving Vehicles could also support areas previously impacted by driver shortages, such as haulage, and where work can be dangerous, such as mining.

Adds Paul Newman, Founder and CTO of Oxa: 

“The immense work put in by the DfT, Law Commissions and CCAV in crafting the Automated Vehicles Bill has helped it pass into law with the strongest cross-party backing. We now have autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation which is more comprehensive in scope and clearer in its requirements than in any other country.

“The Act gives the UK new momentum as developers like Oxa will need to comply with the world’s most comprehensive autonomous vehicle laws to deploy technology in vehicles here. Meeting the highest AV standards will make British companies global leaders with technology that is the safest and AI systems the most trusted – all key to building business and public trust in autonomy globally.”

Chris Price
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