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The UK government on Wednesday became the first country to announce that it would regulate the use of low-speed self-driving vehicles on motorways, with the first such cars likely to appear on public roads as early as this year.

The UK Department for Transport said it was working on specific language to update the country’s traffic laws for the safe use of autonomous vehicle systems, starting with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS ) – which use sensors and software to keep cars in a lane, making it possible to accelerate and brake without driver intervention.

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The government has said that the use of ALKS will be limited to highways, at speeds below 60 km per hour.

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The UK government wants to be at the forefront of the deployment of autonomous driving technology and the Department for Transport predicts that by 2035 around 40% of new UK cars could have autonomous driving capabilities, creating up to 38,000 new skilled jobs.

“The automotive industry welcomes this vital step in enabling the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put Britain at the forefront of road safety and automotive technology,” Mike Hawes , CEO of the auto industry lobby group, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. , said in a statement.

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But insurance companies warn Britain’s goal of being a leader in self-driving car adoption could backfire unless automakers and regulators spell out the current limits of technology available today.

Calling ALKS ‘automated’ or using the term synonymous with ‘autonomous driving’, they say, will make UK drivers think cars can drive themselves, causing accidents and risking a public backlash against the technology.

“Apart from the lack of technical capability, by calling ALKS automated, our concern is also that the UK government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems which has unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths” , said Matthew Avery, research director. to Thatcham Research, which tested the ALKS systems.

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The danger that drivers apparently misunderstand the limits of the technology has been an issue in the United States, where regulators are looking at around 20 crashes involving Tesla’s driver assistance tools, such as its’ autopilot system. ”.

(Reporting by Nick Carey, editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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