Driving laws to be reviewed to accommodate self-driving vehicles

Driving laws to be reviewed to accommodate self-driving vehicles

The Government recently commissioned a detailed review of current driving laws to ensure the UK remains one of the ‘best places in the world to develop, test and drive self-driving vehicles’.

The review is set to be on-going for three years and to be carried out by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission will examine the legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of autonomous vehicles.

The review will see how the current laws need to be adjusted to reflect the many different aspects of the autonomous vehicle, taking into account the fact that self-driving vehicles of the future will not have a driver, and maybe not even a steering wheel – while also taking into consideration the criminal offences involved with this.

The project sets out to answer a number of important issues including:

  • Who is the ‘driver’ or responsible person?
  • How to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is some shared control
  • The role of automated vehicles within public transport networks and emerging platforms for on-demand passenger transport, car sharing and new business models providing mobility as a service
  • Whether there is a need for new criminal offences to deal with ‘novel types of conduct and interference’
  • The impact on other road users, and how they can be protected from risk

Jesse Norman, Roads Minister, said: “The UK is a world leader for self-driving vehicle research and development and this work marks an important milestone in our continued commitment to the technology.

“With driving technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, it is important that our laws and regulations keep pace so that the UK can remain one of the world leaders in this field.”

Nicholas Paines QC, Law Commissioner, said: “British roads are already among the safest in the world and automated vehicles have the potential to make them even safer. Provided our laws are ready for them.

“We’ll now start consulting widely on how the law should work with this new technology and develop reforms which enable the use of self-driving vehicles in the years to come.”

Caroline Drummond, Scottish Law Commissioner, said: “Automated vehicles could have a big impact on the way we live and work so it’s important that, UK-wide, we have a legal system which can accommodate them.”

Rob Wallis, CEO of TRL, said: “We are seeing a global revolution in transport, transforming how we will travel in the future. Connectivity, electrification, automation and shared mobility are the 4 main themes driving this innovation.”

“Regulation, safety standards and vehicle insurance models all have a key part to play in enabling change, whilst giving society confidence that these new products and services can be introduced safely. The GATEway project, led by TRL, is providing vital scientific insight to help shape future regulatory standards and to better understand public perceptions associated with these new mobility solutions.”

The GATEway project is now entering its final phase which will see a fleet of automated pods providing a shuttle service around the Greenwich Peninsula to understand public acceptance of, and attitudes towards, self-driving vehicles.