Self-driving vehicles are planned on UK roads by 2025, but public trust is an issue

Autonomous car concept.  Driverless vehicle.

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The UK government has said driverless vehicles could be on UK roads by 2025 and announced a £100m (~$119m) package to fund research into safety developments.

Government plans could see cars, coaches and trucks with self-driving capabilities hitting motorways next year, with new legislation in the pipeline to enable wider and safer deployment of driverless vehicles by 2025.

He also launched a consultation on a “safety ambition” proposal that would require an autonomous vehicle to be “as safe as a competent and careful human driver”, according to the announcement of the Ministry of Transport.

The government hopes to speed up new insurance and liability legislation so that manufacturers – not drivers – are responsible for accidents when the vehicle is in self-driving mode.

However, the British government Data Ethics and Innovation Center (CDEI) linked Responsible innovation in autonomous vehicles report, points to a long and complex road to travel if the public is to trust self-driving vehicles and the rules governing their use.

There is a risk that the public will reject driverless vehicles if they are not deemed safe enough, CDEI warns.

“Average improvements in road safety, even if they can be clearly demonstrated, will not engender public trust if crashes are seen as the fault of anonymous tech companies or lax regulation rather than fallible human drivers. “, declares the CDEI in its report.

For the public to see self-driving vehicles as equivalent to trains or planes, the public “could expect a 100x improvement in average safety compared to manually driven vehicles.”

Professor Jack Stilgoe of University College London, who advised the CDEI, told the BBC that establishing the safety of driverless cars should be a democratic decision.

“The danger is kind of sleepwalking into a world where these changes are happening to accommodate a mode of transport – and then the benefits don’t spread very widely,” he said.

According to the CDEI, driverless cars should be clearly marked so people know which “agents” they are sharing the road with. He also worries that the technology is creating pressure to change roads and traffic rules to accommodate driverless cars.

To gain public trust, CDEI recommends rules that require technology makers to explain the conditions in which autonomous vehicles can operate, such as road types, locations, weather conditions and the behavior of other road users. the road.

He notes that, to reduce liability, technology companies are encouraged to narrowly define the operational design domain (ODD) of autonomous vehicles, referring to the operating conditions in which the driving automation system is specifically designed to perform. function.

The CDEI recommends that persons with disabilities are also consulted to ensure that the regulations are inclusive.

“There is a need for continued dialogue and social research to deepen understanding of public views on accountability, labeling, explainability of decisions made by AVs, and possible infrastructure changes as AV systems grow and grow.”

The answers to these questions will impact “security (infrastructure), acceptability of AVs (labeling, explainability), and liability and obligation to provide reward (liability),” the CDEI states.

The government estimates that allowing self-driving cars on UK roads could create up to 38,000 jobs and add £42bn to the economy.

Of the £100million total, the government today confirmed £34million for research to ‘support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation’, along with £20million to “launch self-driving business services and enable businesses to grow”. . He sees potential in grocery deliveries and airport shuttles, building on the £40million already invested.

The government hopes the “safety ambition” consultation will inform standards for self-driving vehicles, including whether penalties are imposed on manufacturers if their technology fails to meet these standards.

The CDEI report is based on proposals in a Law Commission’s January Report on Driverless Vehicle Regulation.

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