UK plans for first self-driving vehicles on roads by next year

London: Vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks with some self-driving features could be operating on UK highways in the next year, the UK government said on Friday as it rolled out plans for new legislation in time for self-driving vehicles by 2025.

Backed by 100 million pounds funding, the Department for Transport (DfT) said the government's plans would prioritise safety through new laws and create thousands of new jobs in the industry.

It believes the emerging market of self-driving vehicles could create up to 38,000 jobs and be worth an estimated 42 billion pounds.

The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge. Not only can they improve people's access to education and other vital services, but the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country, said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Most importantly, they're expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions. We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using this fantastic technology, and that is why we are investing millions in vital research into safety and setting the legislation to ensure we gain the full benefits that this technology promises, he said.

Under government plans, vehicles that can drive themselves on motorways could be available to purchase within the next year, for which users would need a valid driving licence.

Other self-driving vehicles, such as those used for public transport or delivery expected on the roads by 2025, would not need anyone onboard with a driving licence because they would be able to drive themselves for the whole journey.

DfT says new laws for the safe rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025 will be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible.

The legislation will build on existing laws, and state that manufacturers are responsible for the vehicle's actions when self-driving, meaning a human driver would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.

Self-driving vehicles are expected to revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don't drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.

Further in the future, they could also provide tailored on-demand links from rural towns and villages to existing public transport options nearby.

They could also provide more direct and timely services that enable people to better access vital services such as schools and medical appointments.

DfT said its vision for self-driving vehicles covers 34 million pounds for research to support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation. This could include researching the performance of self-driving cars in poor weather conditions and how they interact with pedestrians, other vehicles, and cyclists.

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