Automated vehicles

Commissioner

Caroline Drummond

Team member

Charles Garland, Project Manager

Alison Hetherington, Legal Assistant

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has asked the Law Commission of England and Wales to undertake a far-reaching review of the UK’s legal framework for automated vehicles, and their use as part of public transport networks and on-demand passenger services.  The Scottish Law Commission is working together with the Law Commission on this project.  Our first publication was published on 8 November 2018; details are set out below.

In this joint project, we will be considering a wide variety of areas, ranging from road traffic legislation to product liability. 

Context 

Automated vehicles do not readily fit within current legal frameworks: many existing requirements apply to human drivers. 

For example: 

  • How do automated driving systems fit within safety assurance mechanisms for cars (like type approval, and MOTs)?
  • Who is accountable for automated vehicles in an accident or crime?
  • Who will decide what is safe? 

The Law Commissions’ task is to provide a legal framework which can remain effective in the face of vehicles that may no longer include a human driver. Our work will be part of a national conversation on this important future technology. It is not the purpose of this review to determine whether increased automation in driving is positive or not. 

Scope 

The joint project will cover road-based automated vehicles.  By automated vehicles we refer to a vehicle that is capable of "driving itself” - not being controlled or monitored by an individual - for at least part of a journey.  It will not cover drones or vehicles for use solely on pavements. 

Areas out of scope 

The following areas will be integral to delivering effective policy in this area and will inform the Law Commissions' review but are predominantly outside scope: 

  • data protection and privacy;
  • theft and cyber security; and
  • land use policy. 

Where ethical considerations are relevant, for example, as part of assessing the safety case for automated vehicles and software programming, the Law Commissions will highlight the regulatory choices to be made.  The Law Commissions will, however, seek to avoid judging what may or may not be desirable ethical outcomes, and will maintain focus on legal requirements. 

The Law Commissions will not cover consequential policy issues related to the advent of automation and its impact on future workforce planning for the UK. 

Timeline 

This is a three year project, starting in March 2018. The first year of the project will include an audit of the current law and a scoping exercise to identify key issues.  To that end, we published a Preliminary Consultation Paper on 8 November 2018, along with a summary and some background papers.  There is also a news release.

The consultation runs until 8 February 2019 and full details of how to respond are set out on pages ii and iii of the main paper.  We welcome all views

Contact

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 charles.garland@scotlawcom.gsi.gov.uk.