techUK welcomes Transport Select Committee’s call to legislate for self-driving vehicles
In a new report summarising the findings of its recent inquiry into self-driving vehicles, the Committee makes number of recommendations on how regulations should be updated to tackle concerns about safety and security, dilemmas over legal liability, as well as infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate their introduction.
techUK was called as an expert witness during the evidence sessions for this inquiry and we are especially pleased to see many of our key recommendations reflected in the Committee’s report.
Government urged to legislate
techUK explained that we must see legislation come forward if the UK is to maintain its competitive position for self-driving technology. The Committee agreed, explaining that is “disappointing the Government has not committed to legislating in this Parliament to put [The Law Commission’s] framework in place”.
The Committee urges Government to pass comprehensive legislation in the next parliamentary session to put in place the robust regulatory framework it promised. This should cover vehicle approvals, liability for accidents, cybersecurity, and the use of personal data.
Putting safety at the heart of the sector
Safety runs at the heart of the self-driving sector. The DfT has consulted on the safety ambition for a self-driving vehicle being that of a ‘careful and competent’ human driver. techUK broadly supports this, but has called for more work to be done to define ‘careful and competent’ within a broader hierarchy of safety outcomes. We welcome the fact the Committee also recognises that more needs to be done, and that Government should set a clearer threshold.
Cybersecurity, road worthiness and legal liability
The Law Commission’s report on self-driving vehicles has set the foundation for developing regulation for ensuring the cybersecurity and road worthiness of self-driving vehicles, and new tests for legal liability. techUK explained that the proposed regime is a strong foundation that we must bring into law if we are to tackle many of the complex challenges that lay ahead. We’re pleased that the Committee also recognises that the Government must take a lead on these issues.
What infrastructure will be needed?
The Committee states that self-driving vehicles will need well-maintained roads – an issue many road users already feel should be a high priority – as well as signage, nationwide connectivity, and up-to-date digital information about the road network. techUK explained that self-driving vehicles should be able to take the environment as it finds it, but that the Government should be working to ensure our public infrastructure is kept to a high standard with connectivity improvements also delivered across the country.
What are the key use cases?
The Committee heard there is a range of possible uses for SDVs, including with HGVs, buses, taxis and private cars. It believes that, in time, SDVs have the potential to improve connectivity and provide significant benefits for safety and productivity in industries such as logistics.
The next steps for self-driving vehicles?
Overall, techUK welcomes the Committee’s report and recommendations. The Government has stated its ambitions to make the UK Science and Technology Superpower by 2030. As outlined in techUK’s ‘UK Tech Plan’, ensuring that we have the right regulatory environment to allow transformative technologies like this to scale will be essential.
We continue to urge the Government to bring forward primary legislation for self-driving vehicles in the upcoming King’s Speech. This will enable us to unleash the benefits of this technology, creating opportunities for our economy, road safety and countless sectors that would benefit from the adoption of this technology.
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