In the King’s Speech yesterday a new piece of legislation was announced which intends to enable the use of autonomous vehicles (AV) in Britain.

The supposedly long-awaited legislation was passed as the Automated Vehicles Bill and will see level 4 self-driving vehicles be valid for use on British roads.

During the speech the King said: “My Ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles…”

The Government has said that the bill will provide the sector with the certainty and confidence it needs to develop the technology in the UK.

The landmark legislation was announced in the Lords Chamber by the King in a speech that is historically drafted by the Prime Minister, this year falling to the responsibility of Rishi Sunak.

A briefing document from Number 10 stated that the bill It will release a huge growth potential of this sector and potentially allow Britain to create a UK market of up to £42 billion and create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK self-driving vehicle sector generated £475 million of direct investment and 1,500 new jobs, according to the government’s report.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:

“Autonomous Vehicles have potential to dramatically improve people’s quality of life, especially in areas where bus services struggle to support them.

“Councils will continue to prioritise safety and public health, regardless of mode of travel.

“Government also needs to act to help pedestrians and road users by regulating the estimated 750,000 private e-scooters already on our roads, the majority of which are used illegally and by banning pavement parking, which would make footpaths accessible to all parts of society.”

Only the vehicles that can drive themselves safely and can follow all road traffic rules without the need for a human to monitor the vehicle to maintain safety will be classified as self-driving and allowed on UK roads.

Companies that deploy AVs will have to meet safety requirements from the point a vehicle is introduced on to UK roads or face new sanctions and penalties if they fail in their duty. These will include fines, requirements to take corrective action, and suspension of operation.

In the last two weeks in the USA, Cruise’s self-driving vehicles were suspended in California after a hit-and-run incident involving one of their AVs.

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