The UK Government has said that self-driving cars will be allowed to drive on roads in the country for the first time before the end of this year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed that cars equipped with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS) could be allowed to drive without the driver’s input.

Self-driving cars will only be permitted to operate on motorways at a maximum speed of 37mph (60km/h).

The ALKS technology ensures that a vehicle stays in its own lane and controls its speed and braking. It also allows the driver to take control of the vehicle when required.

The DfT said that the technology would be the first type of hands-free driving to be legalised in the country.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better.

“But we must ensure that this exciting new technology is deployed safely, which is why we are consulting on what the rules to enable this should look like.

“In doing so, we can improve transport for all, securing the UK’s place as a global science superpower.”

The technology is expected to enhance road safety by minimising human error, which contributes to more than 85% of road accidents in the UK.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The automotive industry welcomes this vital step to permitting the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put the country in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology.”

“Technologies such as ALKS will pave the way for higher levels of automation in future, and these advances will unleash the UK’s potential to be a world leader in the development and use of these technologies.”