Government gears up for driverless car technology

Following a nine-week consultation period, the Government has outlined its plans for regulating the development, construction and use of automated vehicles in the UK.

Automated vehicle technology is expected to profoundly change the way we travel by road.  It is hoped that road transport will become safer, smoother and more efficient. 

The Government is keen to ensure that automated vehicles can be developed and used safely and responsibly.  To this end, the Government has carried out a regulatory review in light of envisaged developments and has canvassed various interested industries including automotive, insurance, technology and various safety groups. 

The consultation and response focused in particular on the following three areas:

1. Regulatory reform
It seems likely the Government will continue to regulate in a rolling programme of ‘step by step’ regulatory reform, working closely with the industry so that UK citizens and businesses can take advantage of innovative vehicle systems as soon as they reach the market.

2. Insurance
The introduction of any technology where a ‘driver’ no longer controls a vehicle in the conventional sense raises several issues from a liability and insurance perspective.  The innocent victim of a collision involving an automated vehicle faces a number of issues, and may well be disadvantaged in terms of securing quick compensation, compared to a victim of a collision involving a conventional vehicle.

The Government is proposing a single insurer model whereby the victim would have a claim against the motor insurer and the insurer would in turn have a claim against the party at fault e.g. the manufacturer or software provider.  This proposal has been welcomed by the insurance industry.

3. Highway Code and Construction and Use Regulations
The Government is also proposing to amend the Construction and Use Regulations and the Highway Code to facilitate the introduction of remote control parking, motorway pilot and platooning, and we await further details of these changes.

Businesses and consumers excited by the introduction of automated vehicles on our roads, and the opportunities which this presents, are likely to be encouraged by the Government’s approach.  Whilst we expect further legislative and regulatory developments in due course, including the Modern Transport Bill, the Government so far seems keen to strike a balance between adopting an appropriate level of regulation and attempting to secure the UK’s position as leading the way for the development, construction and use of automated vehicle technologies.

A copy of the Government Response can be found here.

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