Autonomous vehicles soon to be authorized on UK roads?

In the United Kingdom, the government prides itself on passing legislation favorable to autonomous vehicles. What is it really ? The Department of Transport explained on Tuesday April 28, 2021 that the first features to be authorized will be lane keeping assistance systems or “Automated Lane Keeping System” (ALKS).

These features allow the vehicle to stay in its lane, accelerate and decelerate when necessary thanks to a set of on-board sensors and software. All without the driver needing to intervene. These ALKS systems will be authorized by the end of the year for vehicles traveling up to 60 km / h on expressways.

Environmental supervision is the responsibility of the system

The Department of Transport added that vehicles with these features will legally be able to receive the designation “autonomous vehicle” if they receive UK approval and there is no evidence to contradict the vehicle’s ability to drive. himself. The government added, says the BBC, that drivers will not be required to watch the road or keep their hands on the wheel. However, they must be able to get back behind the wheel within 10 seconds of any warning from the on-board system.

With these details, it seems that the authorized systems will therefore correspond to SAE level 3, ie conditional automation. In this level of autonomy, monitoring of the vehicle environment falls to the on-board system and no longer to the human driver, unlike level 2 SAE. However, the driver must remain alert to the road and be able to regain control immediately. These systems can be triggered under predefined conditions, such as on expressways, and be able to recognize their limits by asking the driver to regain control if necessary.

A UN regulation

In June 2020, the UN published a regulation on this subject adopted by some sixty countries, including European countries and Japan. This regulation specifically authorizes the circulation of level 3 autonomous vehicles and these lane-keeping systems. Black boxes on board the vehicles must make it possible to know what happened in the event of an accident and the performance that the on-board systems must achieve are specified.

The British government therefore seems to follow this UN regulation. He is not the only one. Recently, Japan allowed Honda to market a vehicle with SAE Level 3 functionality.

However, care should be taken when using the term autonomous vehicle. On this subject, Tesla’s communication around its Autopilot has often been criticized and the name deemed to be inherently misleading. Tesla, for its part, regularly recalls the safety systems put in place to ensure that drivers are attentive behind the wheel. But the authorities are attentive and closely monitor accidents that occur when an advanced driver assistance system is activated.

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