UK Government releases response to Driverless Cars Consultation – January 2017

In January 2017 the UK Government published its response to the views received following its consultation on proposals to support Automated Vehicle Technology ("AVT") and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems ("ADAS"). The project is aimed at overcoming domestic regulatory issues that might be encountered by British citizens and businesses.

Initial Consultation: July – September 2016

AVT, in its current state of development, allows the driver to hand over full control and responsibility to the vehicle. ADAS are designed to assist the driver in the driving process only and include tools such as lane change assistance and parking sensors.    

The consultation indicated that the general approach to regulatory reform would be a rolling programme, removing barriers to the introduction of ADAS and AVT as they could be foreseen. In particular, the consultation noted the challenges posed by AVT, given that the UK motor vehicle insurance model is based on insuring the driver of the vehicle. AVT might eventually remove the need for a "driver". The government did not think it proportionate at this stage to make any changes to general product liability law in order to fill the current legislative gap. Instead the proposal following the consultation is to supplement the current framework of compulsory motor insurance to include the use of AVs. The planned approach received positive support from respondents.

Government Proposals

The government now proposes to establish a single insurer model to support the use of AVT. Under this model:

  • In the event of a collision, where AVT was in use, the innocent victim would be able to claim directly from the insurer. The motorist, if injured, would also be able to claim from the insurer. The insurer would only be able to exclude liability to the motorist where a crash resulted from the motorist making unauthorised modifications to their vehicle's operating system or failure to install required updates to the software for the vehicle's operating system.      
  • Where the manufacturer is found to be liable, the insurer will be able to recover against the manufacturer as per existing common law and product liability laws.
  • The Secretary of State will have the power to publish a list that will classify vehicles or types of vehicles that are to be regarded as AVs and are therefore subject to the new insurance requirement.

Next Steps

These proposals will be taken forward in the Modern Transport Bill which is due to enter Parliament in 2017.

The government intends to consult further on amendments to specific Construction and Use Regulations and Highway Code Rules that are implicated by the arrival of near to market ADAS.

Anthony Dempster
Anthony Dempster
Partner, dispute resolution, London
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+44 20 7466 2340

Anish Patel
Anish Patel
Associate, dispute resolution, London
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+44 20 7466 2881

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