UK Government Tightens AV Testing Safety Requirements

Advanced autonomous vehicle trials will not receive the UK government’s support unless a case can be made for their “safety”.

The government’s Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has published a new Code of Practice for Automated Vehicle Trialling, an updated version of its 2015 Code of Practice, The Pathway to Driverless Cars. The new code stipulates that companies seeking to conduct AV trials will have to develop and publish a “detailed safety case” before being given permission to do so. It also says they will need to provide “information on the specific trial activity, vehicles, and operational domain of the trial” along with “evidence that the trial activity can be performed safely, whether with a safety driver in the vehicle or with a remote safety operator”.

Human back-up drivers will now be expected to “undergo continuous development and training”. This compares with equivalent stipulations in the 2015 code that AV trials “must obey all relevant road traffic laws”, with human back-up drivers being required to have previously “received appropriate training” and “hold the appropriate driving licence”. The new code requires the companies trialing AVs to submit “reports on the performance of the trial vehicle”, including details of “any incidents or issues encountered during the trial”.

A CCAV statement also cites a requirement for AV trial operators to conduct pre-trial “risk assessments” as a feature of the revised code but there is already a clause saying this is expected in the 2015 guidance. The statement also claimed the revised code showed the government was on schedule “to meet its commitment to have fully self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021″, a core plank of its industrial strategy.

Industry Under-Secretary Richard Harrington added the revised guidance would “provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads”. Transport Minister Jesse Norman said the government was “supporting the safe, transparent trialing of this pioneering technology, which could transform the way we travel”.

The new Code of Practice was welcomed by road safety charity Brake. Commenting on its publication, the charity’s director of campaigns Josh Harris claimed AVs offered the chance “to eliminate driver error and put an end to the daily tragedy of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. We support the leading role being played by UK government on this important agenda for the future of safety and mobility.”

 


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