Alastair Smith, Project Manager
About the report
On 26 January 2022, together with the Law Commission of England and Wales, we published our Joint Report on Automated Vehicles. An outline, summary and news release are also available, together with an analysis of the responses to Consultation Paper 3 and an impact assessment.
This project was commissioned by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected Vehicles (CCAV) in 2018, and reviewed regulatory options for automated vehicles.
Automated vehicles do not readily fit within current legal frameworks, as many existing requirements apply to human drivers. The new laws that we recommend aim to place the UK at the forefront of automated vehicles technology and thereby ensure the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles.
The Report recommends the enactment of a new Automated Vehicles Act to regulate self-driving vehicles. The Act recommends drawing a clear distinction between driver support features (such as cruise control) and self-driving. To achieve this, we recommend the creation of new offences to prevent misleading marketing of vehicles as self-driving when they in fact require the driver to monitor the environment.
Our recommendations include the setting up of a new system of legal accountability. Under this system a vehicle would need to be authorised by a regulatory agency as self-driving. Before granting authorisation the agency would apply a new safety standard to ensure that self-driving vehicles are at least as safe as human drivers.
Under our proposals, if a vehicle is authorised by the regulatory agency as having “self-driving features” and those features are switched on, the person in the driving seat would become a “user-in-charge” rather than a driver. As such they would not be responsible legally for the way the vehicle drives while the system is engaged. Instead, the company or body that obtained the authorisation (an “Authorised Self-Driving Entity” or “ASDE”) would face regulatory sanctions if the vehicle breached laws relating to how a vehicle is driven (e.g. exceeding speed limits or operating without the due care and attention that a human driver would show in keeping a safe distance).
Some vehicles will be able to drive themselves without a user in the driving seat, in which case a licensed operator would be responsible for overseeing the journey and liable for regulatory sanctions. Accessibility is also at the heart of all of our recommendations, especially for passenger services.
The Report recommends a new system of data retention to assist in dealing with civil claims.
This Report builds on three consultation papers:
1. A Preliminary Consultation Paper, published on 8 November 2018, together with a summary. There is also a news release. The consultation ended on 18 February 2019, and 178 responses were received. The responses can be viewed here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/draft-responses-to-the-automated-vehicles-consultation-2018-19/; there is also an analysis, and a summary.
2. A second Consultation Paper, published on 16 October 2019, along with a summary and a news release. The consultation ended on 3 February 2020. The responses can be seen here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/responses-to-automated-vehicles-consultation-paper-2/ and there is also an analysis and summary.
3. A third and final Consultation Paper, published on 18 December 2020, along with a summary and a news release. The consultation period closed on 18 March 2021 and we are now studying the responses. We released a Summary of Responses to Consultation Paper 3 and Next Steps on 2 July 2021. All of the responses are available to view on the Law Commission’s website here: Responses to Automated Vehicles consultation paper 3 | Law Commission. We have also published a draft impact assessment, alongside a report, Automated Vehicles Strategic Economic Analysis, which was prepared for CCAV and ourselves.
If you require further information about this project, or if there are matters you wish to raise on the topic of automated vehicles, please email