Government explores introducing automated lane keeping system

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The UK is taking steps forward in automated technology in vehicles with the launch of a Call for Evidence today (Tuesday 18 August) to help shape how innovative new systems could be used in future on GB roads.

Key points:

  • ‘Call for Evidence’ on using new technology for automated driving at low speeds
  • Technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists
  • Drivers could see systems on UK vehicles by spring 2021

The 46-pages ‘Call for Evidence’ paper explains how the Department for Transport will look at the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) –  an automated system which can take over control of the vehicle at low speeds, keeping it in lane on motorways.

This technology is designed to enable drivers – for the first time ever – to delegate the task of driving to the vehicle.

When activated, the system keeps the vehicle within its lane, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything.

The driver must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.

The Government is seeking views from industry on the role of the driver and proposed rules on the use of this system to pave the way towards introducing it safely in Great Britain, within the current legal framework.

The Call for Evidence will ask whether vehicles using this technology should be legally defined as an automated vehicle, which would mean the technology provider would be responsible for the safety of the vehicle when the system is engaged, rather than the driver.

The Call for Evidence also seeks views on Government proposals to allow the safe use of this system on British roads at up to 70mph. 

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Automated technology could make driving safer, smoother and easier for drivers and the UK should be the first country to see these benefits, attracting manufacturers to develop and test new technologies.

“The UK’s work in this area is world leading and the results from this Call for Evidence could be a significant step forward for this exciting technology.”

Following the approval of ALKS Regulation in June 2020 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – of which the UK is a member – the technology is likely to be available in cars entering the UK market from Spring 2021.

The Government is acting now to ensure that regulation is ready where necessary for its introduction.

Edmund King, AA president, said:“Over the last fifty years leading edge in-car technology from seat belts to airbags and ABS has helped to save thousands of lives.

“The Government is right to be consulting on the latest collision-avoidance system which has the potential to make our roads even safer in the future.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Automated technologies for vehicles, of which automated lane keeping is the latest, will be life-changing, making our journeys safer and smoother than ever before and helping prevent some 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade. 

“This advanced technology is ready for roll out in new models from as early as 2021, so today’s announcement is a welcome step in preparing the UK for its use, so we can be among the first to grasp the benefits of this road safety revolution.”

As automated technology in vehicles continues to improve, it must be used safely by drivers in the UK. By issuing a Call for Evidence the government is giving those with information or concerns about ALKS technology an opportunity to help shape future policy.

In late 2020 it plans to launch a public consultation on the detail of any changes to legislation and the Highway Code that are proposed, which will include a summary of responses to this Call for Evidence.

The Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) is traffic jam chauffeur technology designed to control the lateral and longitudinal movement of the vehicle, keeping it in lane, for extended periods without further driver command.

At such times the system is in primary control of the vehicle, and is designed to perform the driving task instead of the driver at low speeds on motorways.

The system requirements are set out in a new United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE) Regulation that was adopted on 24 June 2020 and is expected to come into force early in 2021.

When the driver is required to resume control, the vehicle will issue a ‘transition demand’.

If the driver does not respond, it will issue a series of escalating warnings while continuing to operate in automated mode.

If the driver still does not respond, it will perform a minimum risk manoeuvre (MRM) to bring the vehicle to a stop.

Whilst the ALKS is engaged, the driver may deactivate the system to take over the driving task.

ALKS is required to have a ‘driver availability recognition system’ that detects if the driver is present in a driving position with their seat belt fastened and is available to take over the driving task.

If the driver is detected not to be available in these ways for more for more than 1 second or if their seat belt is unbuckled, the system will issue a transition demand.

The driver can “override” either the lateral or longitudinal control of the vehicle, subject to measures put in place to protect against unintentional inputs.

The manufacturer must create reasonable thresholds designed to prevent unintentional inputs.

Inputs above these thresholds are considered to be overrides. During an override up until the point of deactivation, the ALKS will continue to operate and control the other aspects of the dynamic driving task. 

In this situation, the ALKS is considered to be in control of the vehicle until the system deactivates and control is resumed by the driver.

The Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are undertaking a world-leading review of road transport legislation to enable the safe deployment of automation, at the request of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. 

The review will conclude in 2021 and make recommendations for regulatory reform.

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