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ME, MYSELF AND AI: Autonomous is go

Have you ever been driving your vehicle and thought to yourself ‘wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to do anything, if I could just sit here and put my feet up?’ No, me neither! But following a recent government announcement, this is exactly the kind of experience we could soon become accustomed to.

The UK Government have given the thumbs up for self-driving vehicles to hit British streets within the next 12 months, after a landmark ‘call for evidence’.

The Government has set out how vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology could legally be defined as self-driving, as long as they receive GB type approval and that there is no evidence to challenge the vehicle’s ability to self-drive.

The Government believes ALKS technology could improve road safety by reducing human error, which they say contributes to over 85% of accidents. With ALKS, the driver would be able to hand control over to the vehicle’s AI system which will constantly monitor speed and keep a safe distance from other cars.

Following the announcement, Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better.

“But we must ensure that this exciting new tech is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like. In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”

The Government say automated vehicles are not only a great way to improve road safety, the technology could also improve access to transport for people with mobility issues and lead to more reliable public transport.

Government officials believe autonomous technology could create around 38,000 new jobs in the UK industry that could be worth £42billion by 2035. They say over 80% of such jobs are expected to be in professional, technical and skilled trade occupations.

SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The autonomous industry welcomes this vital step to permit the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put Britain in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology. Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error.”

Autonomous vehicles are broken down into 5 different levels:

Level 0: The automated system has no control over the vehicle, but may prompt the driver of hazards.

Level 1: The driver and the automated system share control of the vehicle. Examples of this could be found in most vehicles which are equipped with Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Level 2: The automated system is capable of taking full control of the vehicle; however, the driver must be ready to intervene if the system fails to recognise a potential hazard.

Level 3: The automated system takes full control of the vehicle and the passenger can safely take their attention away from driving tasks: however they must still be able to intervene.

Level 4: Driver can safely divert all attention away from driving tasks and let the automated system take full control.

Level 5: No human intervention is required.

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