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UK Set To Be First Country To Allow Drivers Take Hands Off Automated Car Steering Wheel On Motorway

by : Cameron Frew on : 25 Jan 2021 07:44
UK Set To Be First Country To Allow Drivers Take Hands Off Automated Car Steering Wheel On MotorwayShutterstock

The UK is on course to be the first country to legally allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel on the motorway.

This would be thanks to Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology, which would take control of steering the car at lower speeds, keeping it in its lane and hypothetically allowing the driver to do other things.

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Lane-keeping assists are currently available in cars and have been for quite some time. However, a government move with stronger tech would somewhat legalise taking your hands off the wheel.

Shutterstock drivingShutterstock

As reported by The Sunday Times, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is keen to see ALKS legislation implemented as part of the journey towards driverless cars in the future.

Last Tuesday, January 19, senior officials at the Department for Transport told industry chiefs how the technology could feasibly allow drivers to watch a film or send emails at text at the wheel.

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However, it should be noted that the driver has to be ready to take control of the car when prompted, sparking debate over whether it could actually be defined as ‘automated’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: ‘We have sought views from industry and other stakeholders on the use of Automated Lane Keeping System, to pave the way towards introducing it safely on UK roads. We are currently reviewing these responses and no decision has yet been made on whether to allow ALKS to operate up to 70mph.’

World premiere of the new S-Class from Mercedes-BenzPA Images

An earlier government release stated: ‘The call for evidence will ask whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.’

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Transport Minister Rachel Maclean also said: ‘Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists and the UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies.’

Currently, drivers caught taking their hands off the wheel can face £1,000 fines and three penalty points on their licence.

Motorway UKPA Images

Some officials are wary over whether the technology is ready to be implemented. Lilian Greenwood, a Labour MP on the transport select committee, said: ‘It simply isn’t safe for drivers to ignore the road and do other things while the technology is unable to respond safely to the unexpected.’

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However, Mike Hawes, chief executive for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: ‘Automated technologies for vehicles, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Technology, Cars, Now, UK

Credits

The Sunday Times and 1 other
  1. The Sunday Times

    Shapps steers Britain towards being first country to allow hands-free driving

  2. GOV.UK