The United Kingdom has passed its Autonomous Vehicles Act as law, allowing autonomous cars to hit public roads by 2026.

    Data from the UK’s 2022 annual road casualties report shows the vast majority of fatal accidents were caused by human error.

    As such, the government now hopes autonomous vehicles will be able to improve road safety by significantly decreasing accidents caused by DUI, speeding, fatigue, and inattention.

    The law mandates so-called self-driving vehicles must have safety standards equivalent to those of competent human drivers, and will be subject to stringent safety checks before being allowed on British roads.

    In addition, the Autonomous Vehicles Act includes a key point that manufacturers will be held responsible in the event of an accident involving their autonomous vehicles.

    The decision follows King Charles III’s address to the UK parliament last year that granted drivers in autonomous cars criminal immunity in a collision.

    Autonomous cars had already been seen testing on British roads prior to the introduction of the new law.

    The introduction of the Act means the UK has followed in the footsteps the United States, where autonomous vehicles have already been permitted and deployed on public roads. Robotaxi services have been operating in various major cities for some time, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    One of the more successful robotaxi operators is Waymo, though it’s been subject to a safety investigation since the beginning of this month due to multiple collisions and traffic law infractions.

    Tesla is also due to reveal its robotaxi on August 8, while Australia is currently undergoing consultation for its own laws on self-driving cars as their local arrival nears.

    MORE: Is this a sneak peek at Tesla’s robotaxi?
    MORE: Have your say on self-driving vehicles on Australian roads

    Max Davies

    Max Davies is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Max studied journalism at La Trobe University and stepped into the automotive world after graduating in late 2023. He grew up in regional Victoria, and with a passion for everything motorsport is a fan of Fernando Alonso.

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