Autopilot System Cars

Autopilot Systems Are Legal in the UK: What You Need to Know

Buy smart, drive happy: Must-knows for new car choices.

It’s a question that keeps cropping up: can I activate an autopilot system and let my car take over on UK roads? The idea of self-driving cars still feels a bit futuristic, but advancements in vehicle technology are moving fast. Let’s sort the legal facts from the science-fiction fantasy about autopilot systems in the UK. We will also highlight how you can start a road traffic accident claim.

What is an autopilot system?

Autopilot systems, more accurately known as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), are a collection of features that can automate certain driving tasks. Think of things like automatically maintaining a safe distance from the car in front, staying within your lane, and even some steering assistance. You’ll find these on many new cars, but the level of automation varies a lot.

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Where do UK laws stand on driverless vehicles?

UK laws are catching up with the exciting potential of these advanced systems. Crucially, the government recognizes a distinction between features that assist drivers and truly autonomous vehicles that can drive themselves without human intervention.

Fully autonomous self-driving cars, where you could read a book or even take a nap while the car does the work, are not yet legal for general use on UK roads.

However, certain autopilot features are legal in the UK and are becoming more common. It’s a rapidly changing field, so it’s important to stay current on what’s permitted.

What types of autopilot features are legal in the UK?

The big breakthrough came with the introduction of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS). These became legal in 2021, with strict limitations. Think of ALKS as an advanced form of lane-keeping technology found in many newer cars. For now, here are the key things to know:

  • ALKS are designed for use on motorways only. You can’t activate them on winding country roads or in city traffic.
  • ALKS is limited to slow-moving traffic. Current regulations cap the speed at which it can operate to 37mph (60km/h).
  • The driver MUST remain ready to take over. You can’t treat your car as a fully autonomous vehicle with ALKS engaged.

Can I be punished for using autopilot incorrectly?

Don’t be fooled by ALKS’ legality! Though approved in specific situations, you remain fully responsible for your vehicle. Using autopilot improperly, like at high speeds or while distracted, can lead to:

  • Traffic Fines: You can expect hefty fines.
  • Penalty Points: Points could be added to your license, potentially leading to a ban.
  • Dangerous Driving Charges: Misuse of these systems could be reckless, leading to even more severe penalties.

How far off are fully self-driving cars in the UK?

There are still significant technical and legal hurdles to overcome before we regularly see fully autonomous cars on the roads. Some experts predict that widespread use of cars able to function with absolutely no human driver input could be a decade or more away.

The government is actively working on a regulatory framework to manage fully self-driving technology, which is a complex undertaking. It’s not just about the tech – we need clear rules on where they could operate, insurance responsibilities, and more. It will be a fascinating legal development to watch!

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The safety debate surrounding autopilot systems

Even with the current legal limitations, there’s an ongoing discussion about the safety of these systems. While the technology has the potential to reduce accidents caused by human error, there are also concerns:

  • Over-reliance: Drivers becoming too complacent and failing to monitor the road or be ready to take control.
  • System errors: Like any technology, these systems can have glitches, which can be dangerous when behind the wheel.
  • Misunderstandings: Some drivers may overestimate the capability of these systems, leading to misuse.

Advanced driver-assistance systems, including so-called “autopilot,” exist to support drivers, not take over completely.

Making a road traffic accident claim with National Claims

Advanced driving system or self-driving car accidents can be a whole new level of stressful. Figuring out who’s to blame gets incredibly complex fast. At National Claims, we understand this uncharted legal territory. We’re here to help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured.

Expert Legal Guidance for a Changing World

The laws surrounding accidents involving autopilot systems or self-driving vehicles are constantly evolving. Our team of experienced solicitors is at the forefront of these changes. We’ll guide you through the legal maze, ensuring that you understand your rights. From dealing with insurance companies to navigating liability issues involving this advanced technology, we’ll fight for the compensation you deserve.

No Win, No Fee: Your Peace of Mind

Seeking legal help after an accident shouldn’t be an added financial burden. That’s why we operate on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. It means you don’t pay any upfront costs, and our fees are only due if we help you win your case. This way, you can focus on recovery, not worrying about legal bills.


Autopilot systems have the potential to revolutionize how we travel, potentially reducing accidents and making roads safer. The UK is positioning itself as a leader in regulating this exciting technology. It will be a fascinating space to watch as both the technology and the laws surrounding it evolve.

Contact us today to speak to one of our claims specialists who will be able to help you get started on your claim.

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