Law Commissions open consultation into new rules for UK’s self-driving future

Posted On: 
8th November 2018

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are launching the first of a series of public consultations about crucial legal reforms which will ensure 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.

The work will be crucial in examining how current driving laws – designed with traditional motoring in mind – can support the next generation of vehicles.

The consultation will ask 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.

This includes 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.

The review is part of the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

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.” 

Jesse Norman, Roads Minister, said:

“The UK is in the early stages of an exciting and profound set of changes in how people, goods and services move around the country. 

“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."

To ensure the UK’s road laws and regulations are ready, the Commissions are asking key questions which will be vital for 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.