The United Kingdom has become the first country to approve using automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS) on highways, paving the way for more advanced driver-assist features and, eventually, self-driving cars.
The Department for Transport announced on Wednesday that ALKS will be allowed on British roads later this year, following a consultation with industry and stakeholders. The system will be limited to speeds of up to 37 mph (60 kph) and will only be activated on roads where traffic flows in the same direction, and there are no pedestrians or cyclists.
ALKS is designed to keep a vehicle within its lane, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles and following the speed limit. The system can also execute emergency maneuvers, such as braking or changing lanes if needed. However, drivers will still need to remain alert and ready to take over at any time.
The government claims that ALKS will improve road safety by reducing human error, which accounts for over 85% of accidents. It also says that ALKS will reduce congestion and emissions by smoothing traffic flow and optimizing fuel efficiency.
The approval of ALKS is a major milestone for developing autonomous driving technology in the UK, which aims to become a global leader in this field. The government has invested over £200 million ($278 million) in research and testing of self-driving vehicles and has set up a regulatory framework to support their deployment.