New Zealand needs law change for driverless vehicle adoption, finds study

A study by New Zealand’s Law Foundation has found that a complete overhaul of law and policy around driverless vehicles will be required soon to ensure they can be used legally on the country’s roads.

“Certain types of driverless vehicles, such as the taxi fleets being deployed by General Motors next year, may not legally be allowed on New Zealand roads, regardless of how safe they are,” said study author Michael Cameron.

“Law change to reduce this uncertainty is desirable soon if New Zealand wants to ensure the life-saving benefits of driverless technology are not needlessly delayed. Such change would help New Zealand become a leader in driverless technology, with all the economic benefits that would entail.”

Cameron has written a book, Realising the Potential of Driverless Vehicles for New Zealand, which highlights key law reforms needed for the smooth introduction of driverless vehicles. The author also highlights law changes that should not be made as they are likely to prove counter-productive.

Driverless vehicles are the way of the future, and we need to get on board
— Lynda Hagen, New Zealand Law Foundation.

Despite the recent high-profile pedestrian death involving an automated vehicle, road safety will ultimately be improved by driverless technologies, believes the author.

“Many hope that driverless vehicles will eliminate traffic accidents, end congestion, spark economic growth and provide cheap and convenient mobility for all. But countries that want to fully realise these benefits, and avoid the pitfalls, will need to ensure their legal houses are in order,” said Cameron.

The study also found that driverless vehicle manufacturers should prepare safety assessments for New Zealand, so the country’s authorities can use current consumer protection and land transport rules to protect members of the public.

Additionally, the report identified changes required to clarify liability in the event of offences involving driverless vehicles, such as speeding or illegal parking. It also looked at issues including testing regulation, cyber-security, mandated vehicle connectivity, the use of special lanes and reserved roads, parking and driverless car ethics.

“Driverless vehicles are the way of the future, and we need to get on board,” said Lynda Hagen, Executive Director of the New Zealand Law Foundation. “Michael’s work identifies the law changes needed to make sure New Zealand gets the full early benefits of exciting new technology-led developments.”