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Government accelerates plans for autonomous vehicle trials

The Government is advancing its plans for trials of self-driving vehicles, which could see testing start on public roads by the end of this year.

Ford is developing autonomous tech

Updates to the code of practice could see the requirement for a remote driver removed

The current commitment is to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021, as part of the modern Industrial Strategy, but the Government said it’s looking to move forward and is developing a process to support advanced trials of automated vehicles as it seeks to cement its position as a world leader in automated vehicle trials.

The current ‘code of practice’, first published in 2015, makes clear that automated vehicle trials are possible on any UK road provided they are compliant with UK law – including testing with a remote driver.

An update to the code is now being developed that could see this requirement be removed.

In a statement, the Department for Transport said it “acknowledges the growing desire of industry to conduct more advanced trials”, and added that “a process to handle such trials on public roads is now being developed”.

It added that under the strengthened code, those carrying out trials for automated vehicles will be expected to publish safety information, trial performance reports and to carry out risks assessments before conducting a trial. Trialling organisations are also expected to inform the relevant authorities, emergency services, and anyone who might be affected by trial activity.

Richard Harrington, automotive minister, said: “The UK has a rich heritage in automotive development and manufacturing, with automated and electric vehicles set to transform the way we all live our lives.

“We want to ensure through the Industrial Strategy Future of Mobility Grand Challenge that we build on this success and strength to ensure we are home to development and manufacture of the next generation of vehicles.

“We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021. The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.