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Many modern road vehicles are capable of some level of connectivity, which enables the vehicle to communicate with its surrounding environment (e.g. providing useful information to drivers about road, traffic and weather conditions). Connectivity is closely associated with vehicle automation, in which vehicles use information from on-board sensors and systems to understand where they are, including in relation to their surroundings. Increasingly, new road vehicles are capable of some level of automation, in which the vehicle can make decisions and control aspects of driving (e.g. advanced driver assistance, lane assist and park assist). Numerous established vehicle manufacturers and technology companies around the world are now developing and testing vehicles that can make the full range of driving decisions and take full (i.e. self-driving) control of part or all of a journey.

The Government’s approach to date has been to try to create the conditions in which the UK can capitalise on the opportunity to develop and market CAV, including, in the long term, autonomous or self-driving vehicles. The Department for Transport’s (DfT) view is that the UK can position itself at the “cutting edge” of CAV research and development, thanks to its “permissive Regulations; thriving automotive sector; and excellent research base and innovation infrastructure”.

In February 2015, the DfT published an in-depth regulatory review, which found that the existing framework did not present a barrier to testing autonomous vehicles (AV) on public roads. It subsequently published a Code of Practice for AV testing, and established the UK Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. The Centre is supporting three projects, which are testing a range of advanced CAV in Bristol, Greenwich in south east London, and Milton Keynes and Coventry, in trials due to run until 2018.

The Government published a Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill in February 2017, Part 1 of which addressed liability and insurance issues in relation to self-driving road vehicles. The Bill had reached its Committee stage in the Commons before dissolution of Parliament prior to the June 2017 general election.

Information on further road- and vehicle-related information can be found on the Roads Briefings page of the Parliament website.

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