Alastair Smith, Project Manager
Elizabeth Connaughton, Legal Assistant
Hannah Renneboog, Legal Assistant
About the project
The Scottish Law Commission, together with the Law Commission of England and Wales, are in the final stages of a far-reaching project to support the creation of a legal framework for automated vehicles (AVs), in preparation for their future deployment on British roads. This project was commissioned by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) in 2018, and is due to complete by the end of 2021. (The Law Commission of England and Wales’ project page is here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/automated-vehicles/.)
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?
- How safe is safe enough for AVs to be allowed onto roads?
- Who will decide what is safe?
The Law Commissions’ task is to recommend a legal framework which will be effective in the face of vehicles that may no longer include a human driver. Our work is part of a national conversation on this important future technology, though it is not the purpose of this review to determine whether increased automation in driving is positive or not.
As detailed below, we have published three consultation papers. Our third and final consultation closed on 18 March 2021. Building on the first two, which focussed on safety assurance, legal liability and highly automated road passenger services (HARPS), our third consultation paper sought views on proposed laws for AVs, including:
- The creation of a two-stage approval system for AVs before they are allowed onto public roads, with options for national and international type approval;
- In-use safety monitoring, including software and map updates, cybersecurity risks and communicating information to users;
- New legal roles, with resulting legal duties, for AV developers, AV users, and AV fleet operators;
- Allocation of criminal and civil liability in the event of incidents, including breaches of road traffic rules.
We received 117 responses to the consultation and are grateful to stakeholders for providing detailed and insightful views, which will be invaluable in guiding the future of the project. We have now published a Summary of Responses and Next Steps which outlines the main points raised by consultees and sets out a provisional direction of travel in some policy areas. All of the responses are available to view here: Responses to Automated Vehicles consultation paper 3 | Law Commission
We have also published a draft impact assessment which contains some questions on which we welcome comments; and a report, Automated Vehicles Strategic Economic Analysis, which was prepared for CCAV and the Law Commissions.
Our report, which is due in the last quarter of 2021, will contain a full analysis of responses, including a more detailed discussion of stakeholders' views. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our final policy recommendations, building on responses received and input from stakeholders. These recommendations will be in the report.
1. We published a Preliminary Consultation Paper 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. We published a second Consultation Paper 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. We published our third and final Consultation Paper 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 the Law Commissions.
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