Self-driving vehicles set to be on roads by 2026

Self-driving vehicles could be on British roads by 2026 in an attempt to improve road safety by reducing human error. 

The Automated Vehicles (AV) Act became law today (20 May), enabling advanced technology to safely drive vehicles on British roads. 

It is estimated that the self-driving technology regulation industry is worth up to £42 billion and creating 38,000 more skilled jobs by 2035.  

Road safety is at the heart of the legislation, with automated vehicles expected to improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to 88 per cent of road collisions. 

The law will require self-driving vehicles to achieve a level of safety at least as high as careful and competent human drivers, as well as meeting rigorous safety checks before being allowed onto roads. Therefore, in the future deaths and injuries from drink driving, speeding, tiredness and inattention could be drastically reduced.   

Transport secretary, Mark Harper, said: "Britain stands at the threshold of an automotive revolution and this new law is a milestone moment for our self-driving industry, which has the potential to change the way we travel forever.   

"The passage of the act bolsters the UK’s position as a world leader in emerging industries, with both the self-driving vehicle and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors bringing huge potential for economic growth as they develop."

The act delivers the most comprehensive legal framework of its kind worldwide, setting out who is liable for AVs meaning that drivers can be assured that, while their vehicle is in self-driving mode, they will not be held responsible for how the vehicle drives. 

For the first time, corporations such as insurance providers, software developers and automotive manufacturers can assume this responsibility.  

To ensure these vehicles are safe for British roads, the vehicle approval system will be supported by a completely independent incident investigation function. 

This will promote the same culture of learning and continuous improvement that has made our aviation industry one of the safest in the world. Companies will have ongoing obligations to keep their vehicles safe and ensure that they continue to drive in accordance with British laws.