Could hands-free driving be the key to road safety?

In recent news, the Department of Transportation (DfT) launched a consultation on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS). A government easing on the current laws would legalise the use of ‘lane keep assist’ technology, with the ultimate goal of increasing road safety on motorways in the UK, as well as making driving safer, smoother and easier for motorists.

The UK would be the first country to loosen these road rules, and ‘hands-free’ driving on the roads could be legal as soon as Spring 2021.

So what would these new rules mean for UK drivers?

There wouldn’t be much changing in terms of day-to-day driving just yet. This is due to UK cars at present generally being at levels 0, 1 and 2 of the ‘6 levels of automation’. This means there is no driving assistance, instead, there is mostly partial driving automation and adaptive cruise control which can perform acceleration and steering, but a human driver is still necessary and in control of the vehicle. Government changes would mean a step up to level 3, ‘conditional automation’, providing cars with environmental detection capabilities and the ability to do most tasks, but human override would still be required.

The technology would be legalised at speeds of up to 70mph and would start on motorways to reduce the chance of pedestrians or cyclists getting hurt in the event of an accident. The driver would still have to be aware of their surroundings.

The main argument for ‘hands-free’ driving zones is road safety, as more automated cars could significantly decrease road deaths and injuries. They are aware of their surroundings, and therefore collisions may be prevented. There are speed limits as the cars would only work automated up to 70mph, so would reduce accidents occurring as a result of speeding. Mike Hawe, the chief executive of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that ‘hands-free’ driving could prevent up to 47,000 serious accidents over the next ten years.

Over the coming decade, if the consultation and law changes are successful, there would be a significant shift to fully automated cars and more advanced driver assistance systems. Whether this technology could make driving vehicles safer, however, is uncertain and calls for further evidence.

With Checkpoint’s foundations in road safety, the prospect of safer roads is of huge importance to us. In fact, our product range was designed to provide safety solutions to all manner of wheels and industrial equipment across a variety of sectors. Visit our Products page to learn more about our intelligent safety solutions.

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