Leah Grolman reviews one of the first books to analyse the laws applicable to automated and connected vehicles
It is difficult to keep pace with the technical and legal change in the area of automated and connected vehicles (CAVs). The Law and Autonomous Vehicles is the first edition of what is bound to become one of those stalwarts of practitioners’ desktop libraries (or eBook favourites). The result of collaboration between practitioners and academics, this book will be of great interest to both audiences and those involved in law reform.
The book begins with brief but useful background information about what CAVs can do and what they are predicted to be able to do in future alongside an introduction to essential terminology associated with CAVs. The authors then analyse the key areas of law for CAVs, dedicating a chapter each to (i) laws and codes of practice regulating the testing of CAVs, (ii) insurance, (iii) product liability and (iv) cyber security and data protection. The final two chapters of the book are more forward-looking. The first examines the laws of some other jurisdictions (Greece, Germany, Austria, Italy, the US and South Africa) as they relate to the areas discussed in earlier chapters and advocates for greater harmonisation. The final chapter sets out succinctly areas of the law affecting CAVs which are in most need of reform.
This is a lot of ground to cover in just under 100 pages. Yet the authors provide enough detail to enable readers to understand the key legislation, cases and codes of practice in each area and consistently offer guidance about how the law is likely to apply in practice. Indeed, this is the first book to provide a tool of its kind for practitioners. What few other publications there are in the field are unlikely to be nearly as useful to readers who are trying to understand how existing laws apply as they are often preoccupied with debating how CAVs ought to be regulated, how to address ethical issues to which they give rise or the laws of other jurisdictions (primarily the US).
For academics – or those with clients seeking to make submissions to law reform inquiries in this area (such as the next stage of the Law Commission’s inquiry relating to Automated Vehicles) – the book is invaluable for the work it does in identifying and critiquing ‘grey areas’ and gaps in the law. But the authors go further: they provide incisive analysis of what these ‘grey areas’ and gaps mean for clients and, refreshingly, share their views about concrete ways in which lawyers might help their clients to pre-empt difficulties arising from them.
Inevitably, given the speed at which change is occurring in this space and the lead time in publishing, the book is likely to age quickly. It has already come too late to address the further appeal occurring in the Computer Associates case on whether software is a ‘good’ and the latest Law Commission report in its inquiry into the regulation of Automated Vehicles due to report in March 2021.
None of these developments, in my view, alters materially the accuracy of the authors’ analysis. It remains a great starting point, rigorous academically while being utterly practical. The fact that it has been numbered the ‘first edition’ suggests that we can look forward to updated versions to add to our desks and tablets down the track.
About the book
Leah Grolman, is an Australian qualified lawyer and currently a research student at the University of Oxford