Self-driving vehicles – UK government announces review of driving laws

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The UK government has announced a detailed three-year review of the country’s driving laws, as part of its ambition to be a world leader in the development, testing and rollout of self-driving vehicles.

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.
— Roads Minister Jesse Norman

The review by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission will look at any legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles and highlight the need for regulatory reforms.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman, announcing the review during a visit to the GATEway project in Greenwich, led by the UK’s TRL, 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.”



The work will examine how driving laws that were designed with traditional motoring in mind can support the next generation of vehicles. In particular, the review will explore how traditional laws might need adjusting to reflect the lack of a driver, or even steering wheel, in self-driving vehicles of the future, as well as considering some of the criminal offences involved.

“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,” said Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC.

“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 joint project by the Law Commissions will seek to develop a regulatory framework ready for self-driving vehicles, by reviewing and answering questions such as:

  • who is the ‘driver’ or responsible person, as appropriate
  • 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
  • whether there is a need for new criminal offences to deal with novel types of conduct and interference
  • what is the impact on other road users and how they can be protected from risk.

“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,” said Scottish Law Commissioner Caroline Drummond.

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.”