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Ministers to ensure UK at forefront of autonomous vehicle development, states Queen's speech

Date: 18 May 2016   |   Author:

Ministers will make sure that the UK stays at the cutting edge of driverless vehicle development, the Queen's speech announced today. The UK will also play a key role in electric vehicle development and new forms or transport, stated the speech.

According to a Department for Transport spokesman, the Modern Transport Bill - which is set to arrive by next spring - will establish a new setup for insurance for vehicles capable of driving autonomously.

This will mean that those running autonomous machines will need to have insurance to cover product liability, including the possibility that the autonomous vehicle malfunctions and is to blame for a collision.

Meanwhile, Nissan has announced that its Qashqai off-roader will be available with 'stage one' autonomous technology next year, which enables the car to navigate single-lane, heavy traffic conditions on motorways. It also hopes to launch a range of vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities by 2020 - including the ability to navigate busy urban junctions and traffic without driver intervention - with multiple-lane control likely to arrive in 2018 facilitating lane changes and the ability to avoid hazards.

In anticipation of the Queen's speech safety experts at Thatcham Research laid out a predicted timeline for autonomous vehicle developments, predicting the possibility of assisted driving in 2016 with additional functionality through to 2018 and autonomous driving expected in 2021.

2016: Many new cars are fitted with camera and radar systems that can monitor hazards ahead and automatically apply the brakes to avoid a crash. Some vehicles have low-speed driving assistance systems which can pilot vehicles at speeds of up to 30mph controlling the steering, acceleration and braking.

2018: Cars set to gain more advanced features with legislations permitting hands-off driving on motorways, though the driver retains responsibility and will be expected to take control back in the event of unforeseen circumstances or technical faults.

Some models will be able to drive on autopilot for around three minutes at a time, allowing the driver to check satnav details or important emails, though the driver is likely to have to re-engage with the car - most likely by putting their hands back on the wheel - after three minutes, to avoid the vehicle bringing itself to a safe stop.

2021: Automated driving becomes possible. On some defined sections of motorway cars are able to take full control, allowing the driver to do other unrelated tasks, such as reading a book. A suite of sensors including radar, camera and laser scanners will help the vehicle to build up a complete picture of its environment, with autonomous steering, acceleration and braking inputs possible.

2025: Fully hands-free door-to-door autonomy expected. Cars are predicted to be able to cope with a range of driving environments from city and urban routes to large arterial routes. Vehicles are expected to be able to negotiate traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts, where infrastructure is set up to allow this. Full connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure is likely, allowing vehicles to plan ahead to establish the most effective route, taking into account real-time traffic.