UK will allow automated driving on motorways this year

  • February 14, 2021

The UK is set to be the first European country to permit vehicles to be operated using a form of automated driving made possible by so-called automated lane keeping systems (ALKS), following an agreement on the specifications for ALKS at the UNECE in Geneva last summer.

ALKS systems can be operated at up to 60 km/h on separated highways where pedestrians and cyclists are prohibited (e.g. motorways).  The systems have been designed as a comfort feature for driving in heavy traffic where vehicles are moving slowly or stopped.  However, the UK has said it is still considering allowing the systems to be permitted at full UK motorway speed (70 mph / 112 km/h).

There has also been considerable pressure from the automotive sector to update the ALKS specification for higher speeds at the UNECE.

ETSC, which has observer status at UNECE, says that the systems should not be permitted at higher speeds – as no safety case was made for this type of usage during the development of the regulations.

ETSC is calling for independent investigation of crashes involving vehicles equipped with assisted and automated driving systems, ideally coordinated by an EU agency, before more advanced systems are put on the market.

ETSC’s UK member PACTS has called for the setting up of a UK road collision investigation agency, similar to the existing “Air Accident Investigation Branch” due to the increasing technical complexity of investigating crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems.