Classic cars to be banned from UK motorways and other major roads in the next three decades? The man responsible for managing England’s network says it could happen

Could classic cars be banned from UK motorways in 30 years’ time? The head of Highways England has suggested that with the growth of automation this might be the case.

Jim O’Sullivan, the chief executive of the organisation responsible for managing motorways and major A roads in England, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that the growth of driverless cars and of other automated systems on major roads could, in the not too distant future, result in classic cars not being permitted onto those sort of highways.

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UK Chancellor Philip Hammond said last year that the Government wanted to have fully driverless vehicles on UK roads by 2021, and more broadly a future is predicted with cars communicating with each other on major roads to avoid accidents and reduce traffic jams.

Could classic cars be banned from motorways in the next 30 years?

But this raises questions about classic cars, and O’Sullivan has said that these older vehicles, where the motorist is in complete control, could be banned from fully-automated motorways and other main roads, perhaps as soon as within the next 30 years, because they will be unable to communicate with autonomous vehicles and therefore could make journeys “hazardous” to other motorists and “in safety terms you couldn’t permit it any longer”.

Mr O’Sullivan said that for a “period of time we will have what is called a mixed economy” and that such cars were a “long way from being phased off the strategic road network” - by which he means motorways and other significant A roads.

Could classic cars be banned from motorways in the next 30 years?

But he added that “ultimately I can see a world in the very distant future where they don’t come out onto the strategic road network."

When asked for a likely timescale of this change O’Sullivan said “I think 30 or 50 years from now. But then of course 30 or 50 years from now a fully autonomous vehicle that gets built tomorrow may be a classic car anyway.

“We are talking 30 years from now and we are talking ‘could’. Could I see it happening? The answer is yes, it could.”

Could classic cars be banned from motorways in the next 30 years?

O’Sullivan suggested also that such a ban would not take away much of the enjoyment from driving classic cars. “Do you know what? Classic cars are not a lot of fun on a motorway if you have ever driven one,” he added.

“I think that classic cars are something people will continue to enjoy for many years to come. I can’t see a problem with continuing to operate classic cars. However, he also remarked: “Does a 1907 vehicle belong out on the motorway network for significant distances?”

So could classic cars be banned from motorways and other major UK roads in the next three decades because they're not technologically equipped? Or maybe autonomous need to be programmed with older vehicles in mind.