Will we really have driverless cars in the UK by 2021?


Apparently so! Last week the government announced that driverless cars could be in full use on Britains roads by 2021.

The Department for Transport issued as statement confirming “the UK is on track to meet its commitment to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021”. To achieve their commitment, the Department for Transport wants to see fully autonomous vehicles driving with no human oversight and no steering wheels being tested on UK roads. Current rules require a human remote driver ready to take over control of the car if required, the remote driver does not have to be seated in the vehicle.

Automotive Minister Richard Harrington stated “We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021”. Plans to strengthen the code of practice for testing automated vehicles safely have been outlined with new regulations attempting to ensure any driverless car trials have published safety information and trial performance reports together with the necessary risk assessments. The new regulations will also require the relevant authorities and emergency services to be informed prior to any autonomous vehicle trials.

The UK’s market for connected and autonomous vehicles is estimated to be worth £52 billion by 2035. Transport Minister Jesse Norman said “The government is supporting the safe, transparent trialling of this pioneering technology, which could transform the way we travel.”

Not everyone is convinced driverless cars will be common place on UK roads so soon. Christian Wolmar, a transport journalist who has published a number of books including “Driverless cars: On a road to nowhere” feels the UK is “putting the cart before the horse” and thinks allowing these cars on the road before the legislation, policing and insurance is ready could put lives at risk.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy for the RAC said that while he welcomed the new safety testing standards, RAC research from 2016 showed 62% of UK drivers were actually scared by the thought of truly driverless cars on the road, with only 27% believing they will make the roads safer.

How do you feel about driverless cars?