UK government issues response to Law Commissions’ report on self-driving vehicles

August 21, 2022

In January 2022, we wrote about the report by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on self-driving cars. The government has now set out its response to the Law Commission’s recommendations and has also called for evidence about the future of the UK connected and automated mobility sector.

The government has committed to a new legislative framework for safe self-driving road vehicles, based on the Commission’s recommendations. The new framework aims to enable innovation whilst also ensuring safety. The government believes that self-driving vehicles should be held to the same high standard of behaviour as that expected of human drivers. It says that current law expects human drivers to be competent and careful, and therefore, self-driving vehicles should be expected to achieve an equivalent level of safety to a competent and careful human driver. This is safer than the average human driver.

The government seeks views about its planned approach that self-driving vehicles should be expected to achieve an equivalent level of safety to that of a competent and careful human driver. The consultation ends on 14 October 2022. Following this consultation, the government will outline a final safety ambition that will provide the basis for more detailed safety requirements.

The new laws for the safe rollout of self-driving vehicles by 2025 will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows. The legislation will build on existing laws, and state that manufactures are responsible for the vehicle’s actions when self-driving, meaning a human driver would not be liable for incidents related to driving while the vehicle is in control of driving.

CDEI report

In addition, the Centre for Data, Ethics and Innovation has published a report that sets out proposals for a trustworthy approach to the regulation and governance of self-driving vehicles. The CDEI was commissioned to provide expert advice to inform the future regulation and governance of self-driving vehicles. The report takes a broad view of the factors that are crucial to deliver public trust: safety, data privacy, and fairness. It looks at the areas that will be important enablers to responsible innovation: facilitating sufficient explainability to ensure accountability, data sharing, promoting public trust, and effective governance.

After laying primary legislation before the UK parliament in 2022, the Department for Transport will develop and consult on secondary legislation that will set out the details of the requirements and processes of the new legislative framework for self-driving vehicles in 2023. The CDEI’s report will closely inform the development of that secondary legislation. In particular, the recommendations will inform the design of the new safety framework for self-driving vehicles, and will shape the requirements for what constitutes a sufficient safety case. Following consultation, the Department for Transport expects to publish further guidance on this issue, closely informed by the recommendations of the report.