Driving law changes to see self-driving cars hit UK roads and bring £42billion boost in King's Speech

King Charles and SELF DRIVING CARS

The King unveiled plans for self-driving vehicles

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 07/11/2023

- 12:00

Updated: 07/11/2023

- 13:19

The Bill could create 38,000 new skilled jobs by 2035

King Charles has unveiled the Government’s plans to launch new legislation for self-driving vehicles, which could bring £42billion of economic growth for the UK.

Speaking during the King’s Speech and the State Opening of Parliament, King Charles laid out the Government’s plans for the year ahead.

As part of the speech, the King announced that the Government’s aim was to increase growth, ease the cost of living for families and boost investment.

One factor that could bring an enormous amount of growth was new legislation for self-driving vehicles, which will extend the UK’s bid to become a world leader.

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King Charles said: “My Ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles.”

The Automated Vehicles Bill aims to enable the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles across the UK, which could create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

A strong self-driving sector could help the UK market be worth £41.7billion by the middle of the next decade, capturing 6.4 per cent of the £650billion global market.

The Government has argued that the UK “can either lead the way or follow the leaders”, with the new legislation set to be one of the world’s most comprehensive legal frameworks for self-driving vehicles.

Self-driving vehicles have the potential to improve road safety by reducing human error, with a number of governments and local authorities aiming to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries on roads before 2050.

In 2022, there were 1,695 road casualties and in 2021, 88 per cent of all recorded collisions on roads in Great Britain involved human error as a contributing factor.

Research from the Institute for Engineering and Technology suggests that for every 10,000 errors made by drivers, a self-driving vehicle will make just one.

The self-driving vehicle sector has already created 1,500 new jobs between 2018 and 2022, as well as £475million of direct investment.

The Automated Vehicles Bill will set the threshold for self-driving vehicles in law and hold companies accountable once the vehicles are on the road.

This could include fines, requirements to take corrective action, the suspension of operation and criminal offences in serious cases.

The Bill will give people immunity from prosecution when a self-driving vehicle is driving itself, given that it “does not make sense” to hold the person behind the wheel responsible.

Non-driving responsibilities will still remain, including maintaining appropriate insurance and ensuring proper loading.

The Government will also prohibit misleading marketing, ensuring that only vehicles that meet the safety threshold will be able to be marketed as self-driving.

Modelling from the Government found that productivity and cost savings could increase in other sectors, potentially leading to a £66billion economic impact by 2040.




In 2015 and 2016, the Government took the unprecedented step of investing £200million into the development of self-driving technologies, funding more than 80 projects and 200 organisations.

A previous report from the Transport Committee called on the Government to boost support for self-driving vehicles and introduce new motoring laws.

The previous legislation was described as “archaic and limiting”, with the Committee saying the UK needed to maintain the UK’s competitive advantage.

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