Skip advert
Advertisement

UK self-driving car “revolution” incoming: new law allows autonomous vehicles by 2026

A new law is set to bring self-driving cars to UK roads in two years and puts responsibility in the hands of manufacturers if there is an accident

Tesla Model Y - interior

UK streets could be populated with self-driving cars by as soon as 2026 in what is being described as a “watershed moment for UK automotive innovation and road safety”.

This is all thanks to a new bill that became law today. Named the Automated Vehicles Act, it will enable the introduction of fully-autonomous vehicles to UK roads within the next couple of years, provided they “achieve a level of safety at least as high as careful and competent human drivers”.

Yet, while these self-driving vehicles will still need a person to give inputs on occasion, the new law states that drivers will not be held responsible for how their vehicle acts when it is operating in its autonomous settings. Instead, the government says the legal culpability will be placed firmly on the manufacturer, as well as the insurance company that covers the car, with the driver not deemed a ‘driver’ per se, but a ‘user-in-charge’.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Reacting to the act reaching Royal Assent, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution, and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.”

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

He continued, “while this doesn’t take away people’s ability to choose to drive themselves, our landmark legislation means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026”.

The reaction across the industry, for the moment, appears to be generally optimistic, too. Mike Hawes, the boss of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that it’s “a watershed moment for UK automotive innovation and road safety in the UK.

“Self-driving vehicles will revolutionise our society, and this new law will help turn ambition into reality, putting the UK alongside a handful of other global markets that already have their regulatory frameworks in place.”

That said, the jury is still out as to whether the public would be open to the roads being filled with self-driving cars. In fact, the RAC has found that 58 per cent of people it surveyed were frightened by the idea of fully-autonomous vehicles, with only 15 per cent saying they thought self-driving cars would make our streets safer.

“There are also some very practical hurdles to overcome,” explained the RAC’s head of policy, Simon Williams, “such as how the cars of tomorrow will be able to successfully and safely navigate the UK’s complex web of streets – especially with so many potholes and faded road markings.”

One of the key elements of the new law, will be a crackdown on manufacturers misrepresenting their cars as ‘full self-driving’. This has already become an issue for some – namely Tesla – with the American giant recently caught up in a number of messy court cases in the U.S, which found that there was “reasonable evidence” that Elon Musk and other company executives knew that some elements of Tesla’s semi-autonomous system was defective.

Want the latest car news in your inbox? Sign up to the free Auto Express email newsletter...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Labour to restore 2030 ICE ban, but fuel duty hike on the cards
Labour party logo
News

Labour to restore 2030 ICE ban, but fuel duty hike on the cards

The Labour Party’s manifesto promises support for the EV manufacturing industry and used electric car buyers, as well as an investigation into high in…
13 Jun 2024
EU threatens Chinese electric car tariffs of almost 50 per cent
XPeng G6 - front cornering
News

EU threatens Chinese electric car tariffs of almost 50 per cent

New tariffs would be imposed on top of pre-existing duties in an aim to override “unfair” subsidies by the Chinese government
12 Jun 2024
Labour to fix one million potholes per year under new ‘Plan for Drivers’
Pothole
News

Labour to fix one million potholes per year under new ‘Plan for Drivers’

Labour’s bid for the motorists’ vote includes funding for potholes, an investigation into unfair car insurance practices and a reform for road buildin…
12 Jun 2024
What are the Tories going to do for us? Pay-per-mile road tax ban in 2024 Conservative manifesto
London Roads
News

What are the Tories going to do for us? Pay-per-mile road tax ban in 2024 Conservative manifesto

Conservative Party election manifesto pledges to address multiple issues facing drivers, including rules surrounding tax and the standard of our roads
11 Jun 2024

Most Popular

Dacia’s Duster is Britain’s best car to own as Driver Power 2024 survey results land
Dacia Duster - front tracking
News

Dacia’s Duster is Britain’s best car to own as Driver Power 2024 survey results land

Owners have voted the Dacia Duster as the most satisfying new car to own in the 2024 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey
11 Jun 2024
Best cars to own: Driver Power 2024 results
Driver Power 2024 - best cars to own header
News

Best cars to own: Driver Power 2024 results

The best new cars to own in the UK right now according to the people who already do. It’s the 2024 Driver Power results!
11 Jun 2024
Giant Panda electrified! New Fiat Grande Panda arrives with EV and hybrid power
Fiat Panda - front
News

Giant Panda electrified! New Fiat Grande Panda arrives with EV and hybrid power

Hybrid and electric versions will be available – the same as its sister cars, the Citroen C3/e-C3 and Vauxhall Frontera
14 Jun 2024