The announcement follows years of criticism of the conservative kingdom by human rights groups, which have campaigned for an end to Saudi Arabia’s longstanding ban on women getting behind the wheel. The Muslim nation is ruled by a monarchy and follows a strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.
The move will come into effect on June 23, 2018. A committee consisting of representatives of several ministries will first study how to implement the change in accordance with religious and regulatory standards, issuing its recommendations within 30 days, according to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency.
The ban has long damaged Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, becoming a symbol of the kingdom’s restrictions on women.
The shift comes several months after the Saudi king named a new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The 32-year-old heir to the throne has pushed a program of reform in the country.
In the United States, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the change “a great step in the right direction for that country.”