House of Lords launches inquiry into driverless vehicles

The UK's House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has announced that it is to hold an inquiry into the future uses of driverless vehicles in the UK.

Publishing a call for written evidence, the Committee noted that the prospect of autonomous cars on the UK's roads had captured the public imagination.

"There are, however, also questions about how this will work in practice, how autonomous vehicles would interact with conventional road vehicles during a transition to a fully autonomous system and about consumer attitudes and behaviours," said the Committee.

Launching the inquiry, Committee chairman Lord Selborne said: "Rapid progress is being made in the development of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are being developed for a range of different purposes and have the potential to bring great benefits across a range of different sectors, for example in farming. 

"We will examine what the Government is doing to support research into developing autonomous vehicles in the UK, as well as the real world implications as these vehicles start to appear on the roads and in the work place. If the UK is to be at the forefront of this transport revolution, investment into research is vital to ensure the technology is perfected, allowing the public to embrace the use of autonomous vehicles."

While most people's first experience of driverless vehicles will be the arrival of autonomous cars and public transport, said the Committee, autonomous vehicles also present opportunities in a wide range of other areas, including warehousing, deliveries and farming.

Its inquiry will examine whether the actions taken by the Government to ensure that the UK can be a world leader in developing, testing and deploying connected and autonomous vehicles are appropriate, considering both the scale of economic opportunity and the potential public good benefits, said the Committee. 

The inquiry will collect evidence on the potential uses and benefits of autonomous vehicles, and will look at their transition path and how driverless vehicles will co-exist with conventional road vehicles. The Committee will also consider connectivity and interactions with physical and digital infrastructure.

During its inquiry, the committee will examine several key questions about the role of driverless vehicles in the UK:

  • What are the potential applications for autonomous vehicles?
  • What are the potential user benefits and disadvantage from the deployment of autonomous vehicles?
  • Are further revisions needed to insurance, regulation and legislation in the UK to create an enabling environment for autonomous vehicles?
  • What is the scale of the market opportunity for autonomous vehicles?
  • Will successful deployment of autonomous vehicles require changes to digital or physical infrastructure?

The Committee is inviting written evidence in a bid to gather views from as wide an audience as possible. Written evidence can be submitted to the Committee by Wednesday 26 October 2016, and the Committee will begin taking oral evidence in November.

The Committee aims to report to the House of Lords with its recommendations in early 2017.