Law commissions launch consultation into new rules for self-driving cars

Caroline Drummond

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are launching the first of a series of public consultations about legal reforms aimed at ensuring the country is prepared for the introduction of automated vehicles.

This is an early milestone in a three-year review to examine any legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles and highlight the need for regulatory reforms.

Questions on the types of changes that may be required to ensure the country is ready for the introduction of automated vehicles are included in the consultation.

Among them are questions on if and how road rules should be adapted for automated vehicles, who would be responsible for accidents and how to ensure safety for passengers and the wider public.

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

“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.”

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

“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.”

The commissions are asking the following questions on creating road rules that work safely for automated vehicles:

  • How should we provide safety assurance for self-driving systems?
  • Road rules have been developed for human drivers. How should they be adapted for automated vehicles so that they drive safely? For example, should an automated vehicle mount the pavement or cross a white line to let an emergency vehicle through, just like a human driver would in an emergency situation?
  • Should we introduce a new government agency to monitor and investigate accidents involving automated vehicles?
  • Do we need to modify criminal and civil liability laws to ensure clarity and certainty in the law about who is accountable if things go wrong? This work builds on the government’s recent insurance reforms for automated vehicles.

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