Autonomous bus legislation announced in Kings Speech
New legislation outlining the further roll-out of autonomous vehicles, including buses, has been announced in the King’s Speech today (7 November 2023).
The Automated Vehicles Bill is expected to ‘unlock a transport revolution’ by enabling the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles. It is intended to deliver one of the world’s most comprehensive legal frameworks for self-driving vehicles, with safety at its core.
Only vehicles that can drive themselves safely and can follow all road traffic rules without the need for a human to monitor or control the vehicle to maintain that level of safety will be classified as self-driving and allowed on our roads, according to the new law.
Companies will have to meet safety requirements from the point a vehicle is introduced onto UK roads or face new sanctions and penalties if they fail in their duty. These include fines, requirements to take corrective action, and suspension of operation. Criminal offences will apply in serious cases. A company rather than an individual will be responsible for the way it drives.
Belfast autonomous launch
As the news is announced, self-driving vehicle software developers Oxa and eVersum, the electric commercial vehicles and passenger transport solutions specialists, are cementing a new collaboration with their first joint rollout of autonomous vehicle technology. The companies are combining expertise to deliver self-driving shuttles each capable of carrying up to 40 passengers around the Innovation District in Northern Ireland’s Belfast Harbour Estate, as well as tourist attractions such as the revamped Titanic Belfast exhibition.
The first Belfast Harbour project shuttles are due to enter passenger service in 2025.
The shuttles will be driven by Oxa Driver, a full stack of high-performance software components which the company says can be integrated into any vehicle to enable safe and efficient self-driving. The system is highly modular and customisable, and can be retrofitted as a complete solution or integrated into co-developed autonomy solutions in full or at a component level.
“The broader rollout of self-driving vehicles is starting” – Oxa CEO, Gavin Jackson
Oxa CEO, Gavin Jackson, said: “With eVersum, we can deploy passenger-carrying autonomous shuttle fleets almost anywhere and these flexible forms of transport will become widespread as a way of moving people and goods in a safer, more efficient and faster way. The broader rollout of self-driving vehicles is starting and shuttling can lead the way as the fastest evolving commercial arena for Oxa self-driving technology to make its mark internationally.”
The Harlander project has a total budget of £11 million which is part-funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). Dedicated to solving transport challenges in the Belfast area, this deployment will initially see two autonomous shared passenger shuttles running between local transport links, through Belfast’s Innovation District and major tourist attractions including the revamped Titanic Belfast.