The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have issued a joint report that makes a number of recommendations on the introduction of self-driving cars.
The report suggests that a clear distinction should be drawn between “features which just assist drivers, such as adaptive cruise control, and those that are self-driving”.
Under the law commissions’ proposals, when a car is authorised by a regulatory agency as having “self-driving features” and those features are in-use, the person in the driving seat would no longer be responsible for how the car drives.
Instead, the company or body that obtained the authorisation, described as an Authorised Self-Driving Entity, would face regulatory sanctions if anything goes wrong.
“The driver can no longer be the principal focus of accountability for road safety,” say the commissions, in a situation where they are not in control of the vehicle themselves.
The overarching recommendation of the report is the introduction of new laws which would introduce regulations and legal framework specifically tailored to cars capable of driving themselves.
The report, commissioned by the government funded Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in 2018, is the culmination of three consultations undertaken between 2018 and 2021, with input from “hundreds of stakeholders” from across the automotive industry and other sectors.
It has been presented to the UK parliament and the Scottish Parliament, but the law commissions say “it will be for the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to decide whether to accept the commissions’ recommendations and introduce legislation to bring them into effect”.
Transport minister Trudy Harrison said the introduction and development of self-driving vehicles in the UK “has the potential to revolutionise travel, making everyday journeys safer, easier and greener”.
She continued, “This government has been encouraging development and deployment of these technologies to understand their benefits.
“However, we must ensure we have the right regulations in place, based upon safety and accountability, in order to build public confidence.”
David Bartos, Scottish Law Commissioner adds, “How should the law deal with self-driving technologies? Our joint report sets out new laws for allowing automated vehicles on our roads, ensuring safety and accountability while encouraging innovation and development.”