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UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

Paul Sawers


A gallery assistant sits inside the
Image Credits: Leon Neal / Getty Images

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through before becoming enshrined in law.

The government says that fully self-driving vehicles could be on U.K. roads within two years.

“While this doesn’t take away people’s ability to choose to drive themselves, our landmark legislation means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026, in a real boost to both safety and our economy,” Transport Secretary Mark Harper said in a statement.

Today’s news comes just a few weeks after U.K.-based Wayve raised more than $1 billion from high-profile companies, including SoftBank, Nvidia, and Microsoft, to continue developing a self-learning software system for autonomous vehicles.

As with other countries, the U.K. has permitted driverless cars on public roads for many years already, but with strict rules in place for companies seeking permission to try out new technologies. But as the autonomous vehicle industry has evolved and geared up for prime time, the need for a new legal framework became evident.

While the initial ground work preceded it by several years, the U.K. formally proposed the AV Act in a 2022 joint report published by the Law Commissions of England, Wales, and Scotland, which noted that the arrival of autonomous vehicles creates a need for a whole “new vocabulary, new legal actors, and new regulatory schemes.” It said:

The introduction of automated vehicles will have profound legal consequences … it requires new regulatory schemes and new actors (with new responsibilities and liabilities). We therefore recommend primary legislation — a new Automated Vehicles Act — to regulate automated vehicle on roads or other public places in Great Britain.

Automated Vehicles: Joint report of the the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission

Liability in case of a self-driving car accident

The U.K. has been eager to position itself at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle revolution, funding various AV projects and research programs around safety. The government has touted the potential safety benefits of self-driving cars in that they remove human error from roads, though it acknowledges that crashes will still happen, as evidenced by reports from the U.S., where self-driving cars have a firmer foothold. In fact, California has emerged as a hotbed for proposed AV regulation, too.

This is why liability is one of the core facets of the U.K.’s new regulation — who will bear responsibility in the event of a crash? The U.K. clarified this point in 2022 when it published a roadmap that stated that its new legislation will make corporations responsible for any mishaps, “meaning a human driver would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.”

Each approved self-driving vehicle will have a corresponding “authorized self-driving entity,” which will typically be the manufacturer but could also be the software developer or insurance company. And this entity will be responsible for the vehicle when self-driving mode is activated.

The government will set up a vehicle approval system backed by a “completely independent incident investigation function,” with companies approved to operate under the new regulations expected to meet “ongoing obligations” to ensure their vehicles are safe.



And some additional thoughts from Ross Muir

Once upon a time the maximum speed was 4mph and a person had to walk in front of every car carrying a red flag. It was considered necessary for safety and to remove unnecessary blame for an accident.

Good sense prevailed and the sensible use of vehicles moved on (though the attainment of 4mph would be nice nowadays on some motorways in "rush" hour)

The same will apply with autonomous driving. There will be a trial and settling period of a year or two, then it will become just another ho-hum part of everyday life.



Getting that Last Ounce of Performance

How Calgary Racing Uses Linear Position Sensors (automationdirect.com)

And the connection to NZEI (My thanks to Ross Muir)

We used to have a member (now deceased) Rodger Freeth. Was one of our very early members,  probably joined around 1970 and was a member until he was killed in 1993.

He was a committee member of the Auckland Branch for many years (Secretary most of the time).

He was a serious motor cycle racer. While studying at Auckland University, he was awarded New Zealand’s only ever ‘University Blue’ in recognition of his winning the NZ Road Race Championship on a Suzuki TR500.   Won many championships and titles with big name sponsors after that.



Why I mention this is because Roger (who lived just around the corner from me and worked with me – we lectured in the same Department) used the same techniques as Calgary Racing even back then – started about FIFTY years ago.

His various motorcycles were smothered in strain gauges etc etc that were connected to a recording device behind Roger.   After every practice lap he would spend hours looking at every readout to see if he could make the bike frame, suspension, even the motor mounting better to give a tiny bit more edge – and it paid off with an impressive collection of titles etc.

He had a nasty accident off the track whilst helping a friend, which put paid to his bike racing, so he became a rally co-driver. Unfortunately he was killed in a Rally accident in Australia.


Canon Pivots to Chip Tooling?

A photographic firm enters the race for miniaturisation

Canon said its latest machine, called the FPA-1200NZ2C, will be able to make semiconductors equivalent to a 5 nanometer process, and go as small as 2nm.



Tesla Optimus


Walkman, a 12.7-cm (5-in) tall robot, was built from the remains of a Sony Walkman costing  US$1.75 (£;1.15) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA, in 1996 (the cheapest robot ever !!).   Tesla is thought to be targeting a price point of around $20,000 for Optimus but it could look to reduce that price as production ramps up. A launch date has not yet been announced which is a good thing as Tesla would probably miss it anyway. They are looking at being available to the public sometime between 2025 and 2027 at a lower price. 

At the other end of the scale, we have more pricey ones


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