UK consultation launched on new rules for self-driving vehicles

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have opened a consultation on legal reforms to ensure the UK is prepared for the introduction of automated vehicles.

The public consultation is part of a three-year review examining potential legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles. Its findings will be crucial in exploring how today’s driving laws, designed for traditional motoring, can support the next generation of automated vehicles, said the Commissions.

"The UK could become a global hub for automated vehicles, supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the country"

Caroline Drummond, Scottish Law Commission

“Automated vehicles will have a transformative effect on how we take journeys, our standard of living and the wider economy,” said Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC.

“We want to hear from stakeholders and the public about how to create an environment in which this technology can flourish whilst maintaining public safety.”

The consultation asks a series of questions to examine the types of changes that may be required to ensure the country is ready for the introduction of automated vehicles.

In particular, it asks respondents to share their views on if and how road rules should be adapted for automated vehicles, who would be responsible for accidents and how to ensure passenger safety and that of the wider public.

The consultation also explores how automated vehicles should behave on the roads – for example, whether they should be able to mount the pavement or cross a white line to allow an emergency vehicle to pass.

In addition, the Commissions ask whether a new Government agency should be introduced to monitor and investigate accidents involving automated vehicles.

Finally, building on recent insurance reforms for automated vehicles, the paper asks whether criminal and civil liability laws should be modified to confirm who is accountable in the event things go wrong.

“The UK could become a global hub for automated vehicles, supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the country,” said Caroline Drummond, Commissioner at the Scottish Law Commission.

“This consultation is the first step to achieving this, and we look forward to hearing from a range of stakeholders how we can create a legal framework that allows this industry to flourish.”

UK Roads Minister Jesse Norman said: “With automated driving technology advancing rapidly, it is important that our laws and regulations keep pace so that the UK can remain a world leader in this field. The important work launched today by the Law Commission should help to ensure that.”

The automated vehicles consultation is open until 8 February 2019.