While self-driving cars aren’t yet allowed in Britain, they could be set to hit the country’s roads by 2026, according to a recent statement from one country official.
United Kingdom (UK) Transport Minister Mark Harper noted on Wednesday that legislation surrounding automated vehicles (AVs) is currently making its way through parliament, and he expects there to be a legal framework in place for the emerging technology by the end of next year (via Reuters).
“Probably by as early as 2026 people will start seeing some elements of these cars that have full self-driving capabilities being rolled out,” Harper said in an interview with BBC Radio. “It’ll be gradual…so there’ll be companies rolling it out to be used in certain places.”
The legislation was announced in November, and crucially, the country is looking to hold automakers legally liable for accidents rather than holding drivers accountable. By doing so, country officials have emphasized that the laws are expected to protect consumers and help promote safety in the new industry.
While automated driving has been a polarizing topic in the U.S., Tesla and other companies have set their sights on eventually creating safer roads through the technology. Harper echoed this point, suggesting that the systems could eventually become safer than human drivers.
“Everything I’ve seen about automated vehicles and self driving technologies, it’s very focused on keeping people safe,” Harper added.
Supervised FSD is vastly safer than human driving.
Unsupervised FSD is trending well. Over time, Version 12 (end-to-end neural nets) will far exceed human safety even when unsupervised.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2023
The statements come as market leader Tesla faces some scrutiny around the safety and accuracy of the naming convention of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta, and as it is the only company currently testing the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) at such a broad scale.
Tesla’s FSD beta is available to anyone in North America who purchases the system, and it uses footage from real-time driving behavior to train its neural network, meaning that it continually improves as more miles are driven. Earlier this year, Tesla surpassed 500 million cumulative miles driven on the FSD beta.
Although the FSD beta is currently only available in North America, the potential for expansion into new markets has recently been hinted at by a job listing in Spain, along with apparent testing Tesla has conducted in China, Australia and Europe throughout part of this year.
China also opened a testing road for Level 4 automated driving in October, seemingly coinciding with Tesla’s expected launch of the FSD beta in the country. Tesla’s FSD beta currently operates at a Level 2 of automation, meaning that it still requires drivers to fully monitor driving and to be prepared to take over control of the car at any moment.