Apr 28, 2021

Self-driving cars could be on UK roads by the end of 2021

Self-driving
UK
Automation
Tilly Kenyon
2 min
Self-driving vehicles could be allowed on UK roads by the end of this year, the government has said
Self-driving vehicles could be allowed on UK roads by the end of this year, the government has said...

The UK government has announced that self-driving cars with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS) could arrive on British roads by the end of 2021. Cars equipped with ALKS will allow the vehicle to drive free of human intervention in a single lane at speeds of up to 37mph on motorways.  

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier, and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better.

“But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”

Are they safe? 

According to the government, the technology could improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85% of accidents. The driver will be able to hand control over to the vehicle, which will constantly monitor speed and keep a safe distance from other cars.

Tesla's ‘Autopilot’, which uses lane technology similar to ALKS, has recently received criticism after a report found that the feature can be ‘easily tricked’ into operating without a driver. The Consumer Reports team said they successfully tricked the car into driving their test track with no one in the driver's seat.

"In our evaluation, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but it also couldn't tell if there was a driver there at all," said Consumer Reports auto testing director Jake Fisher. "It was a bit frightening when we realised how easy it was to defeat the safeguards, which we proved were clearly insufficient."

Tesla's website says the Autopilot system requires a "fully attentive driver" and using the system does not make the car autonomous.

What does the future hold for self-driving cars?

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? explained that it was vital that drivers were properly educated.

He said: “Revising the Highway Code to take into account self-driving technology is an important first step in having the right legislative framework to allow driverless vehicles to operate on UK roads. However, past events have shown just how important it is to ensure drivers understand the limitations of the technology and do not confuse driver assistance systems or semi-driverless technology with a fully autonomous feature.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has suggested that autonomous vehicle technology could create around 38,000 new jobs and that the UK industry could be worth £42 billion by 2035. 

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May 12, 2021

The Online Safety Bill: What is it and what does it mean?

UK
Social Media
onlinesafetybill
Internet
2 min
The government's Online Safety Bill was announced yesterday in the Queen's Speech, but what exactly is it?

New internet laws will be published today in the UK in the draft Online Safety Bill to protect children online and tackle some of the worst abuse on social media, including racist hate crimes.

The draft legislation, which was previously known as the Online Harms Bill, has been two years in the making. Some new additions to the bill include provisions to tackle online scams, such as romance fraud and fake investment opportunities.

 

What does it include?

The draft Bill includes changes to put an end to harmful practices and brings in a new era of accountability and protections for democratic debate, including:

  • New additions to strengthen people’s rights to express themselves freely online, while protecting journalism and democratic political debate in the UK.

  • Further provisions to tackle prolific online scams such as romance fraud, which have seen people manipulated into sending money to fake identities on dating apps.

  • Social media sites, websites, apps and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online must remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content.

  • Ofcom will be given the power to fine companies failing in a new duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher, and have the power to block access to sites.

  • A new criminal offence for senior managers has been included as a deferred power. This could be introduced at a later date if tech firms don’t step up their efforts to improve safety.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Today the UK shows global leadership with our groundbreaking laws to usher in a new age of accountability for tech and bring fairness and accountability to the online world.

“We will protect children on the internet, crack down on racist abuse on social media, and through new measures to safeguard our liberties, create a truly democratic digital age.

The draft Bill will be scrutinised by a joint committee of MPs before a final version is formally introduced to Parliament.

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