Britons could be the first drivers allowed to take their hands off the wheel on motorways to watch films, send texts or check emails as Grant Shapps pushes plan for driverless cars
- New lanekeeping technology introduced was introduced to Britain on Friday
- Introduction is stage three of five needed to see self-driving cars on the road
- Grant Shapps wants Britain to be among the first to have automated vehicles
New lanekeeping technology could lead to Britain being the first country in the world to introduce driverless cars as part of a new drive by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The United Nations granted permission for lane-keeping technology to be developed recently and came into force in Britain on Friday, but is so far limited to only roads where traffic flowing in opposite directions are separated by physical barriers.
Additionally, the technology, which is step three in the five needed to see driverless cars on the road, is not currently permitted on roads where pedestrians or cyclists are allowed, The Times reports.
Britain could be the first country to see driverless cars after new lane-keeping technology was introduced on Friday as part of a new drive by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured)
The new technology is only allowed on motorways that have stopstart traffic at speeds limited to 37mph.
Although Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously said he wanted to make Britain the ‘first country to see these benefits’, insurance companies are concerned about the safety issues with the tech.
The insurers aren’t opposed to the lanekeeping technology itself, but would prefer for a human to be on control of the vehicle at all times until fully self-driving cars have been produced.
Matthew Avery, director of insurance research at Thatcham Research, told The Times: ‘If the government introduces this too quickly it could become the next GM crops.’
Despite Shapps having the power to designate vehicles that in some capacity can drive themselves under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, no such vehicles have been listed yet (stock image)
He explained that consumers might turn on the new technology before it has taken off if there is a conception about it being unsafe.
The AA and Thatcham Research have previously voiced concerns over weaknesses in the technology, including the fact that it does not move the vehicle into another lane when there is an issue ahead and instead slows the car to a stop.
The questions about the technology were raised after the government asked for responses to the idea of drivers being able to watch a film, check their emails or using other forms of entertainment while on the move.
What is lanekeeping technology?
Lanekeeping technology has several names depending on the manufacturer selling it.
The automated system warns drivers when their vehicles drift out of their lane in the road.
However, a most advanced version of this system warns the driver of a lane slip and also keeps the motor in the correct lane without any input from the driver.
Although each system varies depending on the manufacturer, many utilise onboard cameras to read the markings on the road.
When alerting the driver of any lane change, a vehicle can make an audible alarm, vibrate the diver’s seat or even gently correct the position of the vehicle itself.
Despite Shapps having the power to designate vehicles that in some capacity can drive themselves under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, no such vehicles have been listed yet.
Speaking after the lanekeeping technology was introduced in Britain, the Department for Transport said: ‘We have sought views from industry and other stakeholders on the use of the automated lane-keeping system to pave the way towards introducing it safely on UK roads.’
They also pointed out that no decision has been made yet whether or not to allow the technology to operate at speeds up to 70mph.
Last year it was reported that the Government was seeking to rename drivers of self-driving cars on UK roads as ‘users-in-charge’ and that they will not be criminally liable in the event of a crash.
A Law Commission report suggested the switch could mean the end of the speeding ticket because ‘users-in-charge’ will no longer be held accountable for mistakes made by their car.
The report said responsibility for what are currently treated as motoring offences – even fatal accidents – should transfer from the driver to the manufacturer of the vehicle or its software.
The changes would open the way for ‘users-in-charge’ to watch films or read during a journey – and even for the traditional driver’s seat to be phased out of future car designs.