Self-driving vehicles could be on UK roads by 2025 under new plans unveiled by the government.
Backed by a £100 million investment to boost the rollout, some cars, coaches and lorries with self-driving features could start operating on UK motorways in the next year.
The Department for Transport said the self-driving industry could create up to 38,000 jobs and be worth £42 billion.
The plans will see new legislation introduced to allow for the safe wider rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025, backed by £34 million worth of research to support safety developments to inform new laws.
A further £20 million will be used to help launch commercial self-driving services — building on an existing £40 million investment — and another £6 million will be used for market research and to support the commercialisation of the technology.
Self-driving and autonomous vehicle technology has been in development for a number of years, with dozens of companies around the world working on and testing vehicles. Some of them are already on public roads.
The government said the rollout of the technology could revolutionise public transport, especially for those who do not drive, and could help reduce road collisions caused by human error.
These vehicles could be on sale within the next year, but would require a valid driving licence so the user could drive the vehicle on other roads.
The government wants other self-driving vehicles, such as those used for public transport of deliveries on roads by 2025. They would be used without a driving licence as they would be completely autonomous.
‘The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge. Not only can they improve people’s access to education and other vital services, but the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country,’ said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
‘Most importantly, they’re expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions,’
The government is now consulting on safety around self-driving technology and planning to build new legislation around existing laws. Manufacturers would likely responsible for a vehicle’s actions when self-driving was active, meaning a human driver would not be liable in incidents where self-driving was active.
In response to the plans, AA president Edmund King said: ‘The automotive world is changing rapidly and so the Government is right to embrace the positive changes offered by this new technology, and back it by funding research and putting forward legislation.
‘Assisted driving systems, for example, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are already helping millions of drivers stay safe on the roads.
‘It is still quite a big leap from assisted driving, where the driver is still in control, to self-driving, where the car takes control.’