UK to review driving laws in preparation for driverless vehicles

07 March 2018

UK to review driving laws in preparation for driverless vehicles

7 March 2018

As autonomous vehicles move further towards reality, the UK Government has commissioned a detailed review of driving laws to ensure they can continue to be developed and tested in the country.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman has announced the start of a three-year review by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission to examine any legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles and highlight the need for regulatory reforms.

As current driving laws are commissioned with traditional human driving in mind, a review of laws would need to take into account the computer element of future vehicles, their abilities and the lack of human interaction with a vehicle. There will also be an opportunity to examine any possible criminal offences that could be involved with autonomous driving.

‘The UK is a world leader in self-driving vehicle research and development, and this work marks an important milestone in our continued commitment to the technology,’ Norman stated. ‘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.’

The project will review and answer a number of key questions, including who should be deemed as the person responsible, or the ‘driver’ of an autonomous vehicle; how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is some shared control in a human-machine interface’; 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; how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is some shared control in a human-machine interface; whether there is a need for new criminal offences to deal with novel types of conduct and interference; and what the impact of autonomous vehicles will be on other road users, and how they can be protected from any risks.

In a statement, Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC added: ‘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.’

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

Britain’s government has constantly stated how it wants to become a leader in driverless vehicle technology. This has included the establishment of the Meridian project, which is jointly funded by the government’s £100 million (€111 million) CAV investment programme and by industry, and will create a cluster of excellence along the country’s M40 motorway corridor in the country.