Self-driving vehicles on UK roads 'within reach' despite serious safety fears - 'A matter of life and death'

Self-driving vehicles on UK roads 'within reach' despite serious safety fears - 'A matter of life and death'
Transport Secretary Mark Harper takes a ride in a self-driving vehicle
Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 14/05/2024

- 11:19

The industry is expected to be worth £42billion and create 38,000 jobs by 2035

Self-driving vehicles cold be seen on UK roads sooner rather than later amid a massive funding boost and backing from the Government.

The Automated Vehicles Bill has now been accepted by the House of Commons and Lords, with the legislation ready for royal assent as ministers support the new measures.

Transport minister Lord Davies of Gower spoke to peers about the new rules, saying "a self-driving future is within reach".

He added that the Bill would make roads safer as the technology would remove human error as a factor in vehicle deaths and injuries.

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Self-driving car

The AV Bill has been met with widespread praise from the industry


The Automated Vehicles Bill will be accompanied by a "comprehensive programme of secondary legislation" including guidance and safety principles.

Lord Davies highlighted that one of the first elements of further work would be to consult on regulations for misleading marketing, with a call for evidence expected to take place later this year.

He added: “We plan to consult on draft regulations for digitising traffic regulation orders in the autumn and that to come into force in the spring of 2025.

"Early work on the statement of safety principles will begin this year, as we build and review the evidence base that will underpin them, and we expect to consult on the principles in 2025."

The progress of the AV Bill has been supported by a number of groups, including the Association of British Insurers who said it would put the UK on the path to becoming a world leader in the technology.

Jonathan Fong, ABI manager for general insurance policy, added: "UK motor insurers have long been supporting the development of automated vehicles, including by actively ensuring trials to allow the technology to evolve, and by supporting the creation and progress of this Bill at every step of the journey.

"We look forward to continuing to engage with Government and other stakeholders on these issues so that we can all fully harness the exciting opportunities automated vehicles present.”

The Institute of the Motor Industry has warned that further changes would need to be introduced urgently to ensure self-driving vehicles are safe and technicians have the proper skills required.

Hayley Pells, policy lead at the IMI, said: "Clearly this is just the first step, and the IMI is keen to ensure that future legislation also takes into account the skills that will be crucial in the aftermarket for safe use of automated vehicles.

"Failure to maintain and update these high-tech systems, many of which are designed to keep road users safe, really could be a matter of life and death. To ensure checks are carried out accurately, we desperately need more technicians to be trained to work on vehicles with this technology.

"We are therefore urging Government and policymakers to ensure there’s the funding and infrastructure to support the essential upskilling.”

This comes as British company Wayve secured over $1billion (£797.7million) to develop the next generation of self-driving vehicles powered by artificial intelligence.


Mark Harper in a self-driving vehicle

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has been one of the biggest supporters of self-driving vehicles


Backed by major powers like NVIDIA and Microsoft, Wayve will develop and launch the first "embodied AI" technology for autonomous vehicles.

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK self-driving vehicle sector alone generated £475million of direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs. The industry is expected to be worth £42billion and create 38,000 jobs by 2035.

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