The UK government has launched a call for evidence on the use of Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS), a technology designed to keep a vehicle within its lane by controlling the lateral and longitudinal movement of the vehicle for an extended period without further driver command. The call for evidence notes that ALKS will be the first approved system designed to perform the dynamic driving task instead of the driver (under certain conditions) and is an important first step towards the development of systems with higher levels of autonomy.  

The UK government is seeking views on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of this system and whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle (meaning the technology provider may be deemed responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver). The consultation was launched on 18 August 2020 and will continue until 27 October 2020. See here for further information.

Three things of interest to flag:

1.         The UK government has iterated on many occasions a desire for the UK to be a leader in the adoption and deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles. Serious consideration of ALKS marks an important step change in making that desire a reality. However, the responses to this call for evidence will be material in determining what is required to help ALKS make it to market in the UK, for example, secondary legislation, amendments to the Highway Code and / or guidance.

2.         The call for evidence will explore challenges which have wider application beyond ALKS. This includes the changing role and responsibilities of a driver, including the potential for the driver to carry out other activities whilst the ALKS is engaged; the implications for insurance, data and cybersecurity; and potential challenges for ALKS in meeting current domestic road traffic rules. The responses could offer an insightful temperature check on how interested parties currently view the future of connected and autonomous vehicles in the UK.  

3.         The UK government has been clear to point out that it considers its independent nation status provides a unique opportunity to exploit the UK’s new regulatory flexibility. It notes specifically that this flexibility may help the UK establish its position as a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles. It will be interesting to see whether this regulatory independence in fact does help speedier adoption of this technology.

Posted by Claire Temple