UK Moves Towards Driverless Car Tests without Safety Drivers

The UK government has announced it’s working to support trials of AVs that don’t have human drivers in advance of a goal to have fully driverless cars on its roads by 2021.

The UK updated its Code of Practice to provide clearer guidance for public road trials. The UK gave the green light for hands-free testing of driverless cars back in 2015, though it still requires a human driver behind the wheel.

The current code allows for AV trials on any UK road in compliance with UK law – which means test vehicles must include a remote driver. However, the UK is preparing to drop that requirement. Instead, the updated code will require those carrying out trials to publish safety information; trial performance reports; and to carry out risks assessments before conducting a trial.

Companies will also be expected to inform authorities, emergency services and “anyone who might be affected by trial activity” – which means significant outreach for AV startups testing in urban environments. Therefore, rural regions may end up being initial test locations. “Advanced trials will not be supported unless they have passed rigorous safety assessments,” the government warned.