Clarity on autonomous vehicle laws needed ‘urgently’

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Transport committee says self-driving vehicles need more legislation

A group of MPs is urging the government to pass comprehensive laws for autonomous vehicles in order to prevent the UK falling behind other nations.

The cross-party Transport Committee says the government needs to legislate before the next general election because the current laws for self-driving vehicles (SDVs) are “archaic and limiting”.

Fully automated driving systems are not legal in the UK. They were mooted for a 2021 release date initially, before slipping to 2022, and are now being pencilled in for 2025.

The cross-party organisation has recommended legislating safety, security and liability as well as infrastructure and use of personal data.

Transport Committee chair Iain Stewart said: “Self-driving vehicles are a great British success story in the making and we have a competitive advantage over many other countries. 

“But all that hard work could be at risk if the government doesn’t follow through and bring forward a transport bill in the next parliamentary session, before the next general election.

“Widespread take-up of SDVs face various hurdles, including public confidence in their safety, security and their potential to have knock-on impacts on other road users. If the government is going to meet its ambitions for self-driving vehicle deployment, these knotty issues need to be addressed. 

“We believe the government should take a cautious, gradual approach, with SDV technologies only initially introduced in well-defined contexts, or else we risk unintended consequences.”  


MPs have questioned the government’s proposed ‘safety ambition’ – that autonomous vehicles will be “expected to achieve an equivalent level of safety to that of a competent and careful human driver” – believing it is “too weak and too vague”.

The committee also said the government should set out a strategy for the future of human driving in a world of SDVs, including possible changes to driving tests and a plan to ensure all drivers fully understand SDVs.

Legal liability in SDVs will become more complex because it’s shared between owner and vehicle software operators. The committee has recommended the government think more about this.

The key

Vehicle technology specialist for Thatcham Tom Leggett said: “We support it. There are some good recommendations – the primary one being the data access. 

“We need access to the data of these autonomous vehicles to make them safe. We need to change how we share vehicle data between the government, manufacturers and the insurers. This is the key for making self-driving vehicles much smoother.

“The reason why we need this data is because we need to figure out if the car is driving or the human is. And the insurance companies need much more access to telematic than they currently have.”

Source: Autocar

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