A new law, announced in the King’s speech in November 2023, could bring self-driving cars to British roads within two years. The Automated Vehicles (AV) Act aims to establish British companies as global leaders in self-driving technology and regulation.

Road safety is paramount to the AV Act and automated vehicles will be expected to achieve high levels of safety before widespread adoption. However, they are anticipated to contribute to improved road safety by reducing human error, which according to the Department of Transport (DfT), plays a role in 88% of road collisions.

Deaths and injuries as a result of speeding, drink-driving, inattention and tiredness are predicted to decrease significantly with the emergence of this technology. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimated that 3900 lives could be saved, 60,000 serious accidents prevented and £66 billion delivered to the economy by 2040.

British autonomous driving companies, Wayve and Oxa, have welcomed the new legislation. Of the development, Paul Newman, founder and chief technology officer of Oxa said: “We now have autonomous vehicle legislation which is more comprehensive in scope and clearer in its requirements than in any other country.” Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO of Wayve, stated “This is a critical milestone for the UK’s deployment of self-driving technology and cements the UK as a global leader in regulating this sector.”

The self-driving sector in the UK continues to gain momentum with continuous investment stimulating economic growth and job opportunities. However, gaining public confidence in the technology is paramount to ensure drivers feel safe. Infrastructural changes and highway code considerations will also be pivotal in the next steps of putting the law into action. On the challenges ahead, Dr Rana Charara, program manager for autonomous navigation solutions at Trimble, said “This Bill, [..] is a good start - and doesn’t try to minimise the complexity of the mammoth task ahead.”