Charles Garland, Project Manager
Scott Cormack, 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. (The Law Commission's project page is here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/automated-vehicles/.)
The project began in 2018 and is due to run until 2021.
Automated vehicles do not readily fit within current legal frameworks: many existing requirements apply to human drivers.
- 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.
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.
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.
The consultation ended on 18 February 2019, and 178 responses were received. We are very grateful for all views. 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. We published a second Consultation Paper on 16 October 2019, along with a summary and a news release. Details of how to respond are set out at the start of the Consultation Paper and also of the summary. Comments are welcome by 3 February 2020.
Our third consultation paper is planned for publication in 2020; in it we will draw on responses to both previous papers to formulate overarching proposals on the way forward. We plan to publish our final report and deliver final recommendations in 2021.
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