UK takes a step closer to self-driving commercial vehicles

UK takes a step closer to self-driving commercial vehicles


The UK has taken a big step toward self-driving commercial vehicles being operational on the roads this week. Road tests have begun this week for a self-driving bus that’s set to become the first full-sized autonomous commercial vehicle on public roads.

How Does It Work?

A safety driver will be in place for every vehicle to take over if necessary…

But the autonomous buses will follow a pre-determined route with sensors enabling the automatic system to make decisions without the safety driver intervening. The plan is for the system to be fully operational by the summer, and road tests are a key part of that process.

This is a progression after trials were conducted on private roads and at depots, as well as track tests and virtual simulations which have all been run successfully. In total, there will be two members of staff onboard the bus – an experienced driver in place to monitor the system and another staff member speaking to customers.

Crucially, there are six levels of automation when it comes to driving:

  • 0-2 – The driver must supervise the vehicle at all times and is always driving
  • 3-5 – The vehicle can drive itself and is fully automated

Autonomous Vehicles On The Road – What’s New?

As technology develops and the possibility of autonomous vehicles being in operation on the road starts to become a reality, some changes need to be made…

And it’s started already as the government has set out key changes in The Highway Code to ensure self-driving vehicles can be introduced safely. The changes outline precisely when a driver should take control in an autonomous vehicle and what their responsibilities are while they’re in a self-driving car.

It’s being seen as an opportunity to level up transport with an increase in automated technology which can communicate without the need for human intervention. The government has taken the decision to make changes to The Highway Code after a public consultation which has highlighted the introduction of self-driving cars as being a potentially significant change to the way we drive in the future.

Self-Driving Vehicles - What Are The Rules?

The legal parameters haven’t yet been set for operating self-driving cars – but the government has confirmed some things, including that the use of mobile phones will still be illegal in self-driving mode. Given that autonomous commercial vehicles could be on the road in the summer, the government is under pressure to develop a legal framework for self-driving vehicles that covers a wide range of issues.

A full programme of testing will be developed to ensure that self-driving vehicles are only approved after meeting strict standards, and a programme of information will be available to drivers to help them use vehicles safely.

What do you think of the prospect of self-driving commercial vehicles being on the road this year? Would you consider autonomous vehicles for your fleet? Let us know in the comments below.