Thatcham Welcomes UK Law Commission Report On Automated Driving

Thatcham Research has welcomed the UK Law Commission’s joint report, which recommends the introduction of a new Automated Vehicles Act to ensure the safe adoption of vehicles with self-driving capability in the UK.

Matthew Avery, Chief Research Strategy Officer at Thatcham Research, said the transition to vehicles with self-driving capabilities is “fraught with risk” and the report provides important legal recommendations and clarity for the safe deployment of vehicles with self-driving features onto UK roads.

“In the next 12 months, we’re likely to see the first iterations of self-driving features on cars on UK roads. It’s significant that the Law Commission report highlights driver’s legal obligations and they understand that their vehicle is not yet fully self-driving. It has self-driving features that, in the near future, will be limited to motorway use at low speeds,” Avery said.

“The driver will need to be available to take back control at any time, won’t be permitted to sleep or use their mobile phones, the vehicle won’t be able to change lanes, and if the driver does not take back control when requested, it will stop in lane on the motorway. It is critical that early adopters understand these limitations and their legal obligations.”

To ensure clarity around system capabilities and responsibilities, Avery said there must be a clear separation between assisted driving, where the car supports the driver, and self-driving capability, where the car is responsible for the entire driving task.

“As such, we applaud the recommendations that compel carmakers to use appropriate terminology when marketing these systems, to prevent motorists from becoming convinced that their car is fully self-driving when it is not,” Avery said.

“Strong, independent safety assurance to build societal confidence, working in tandem with fast-moving and clear regulation is also essential to facilitating consumer understanding and adoption. It’s therefore reassuring to see that safety assurance, along with clarity around the driver’s responsibilities and liability should a collision occur, are key tenets of the Law Commission’s report.

“The Law Commission recommends that there must be access to data to understand fault and liability when a crash does occur. This will ensure rapid and efficient compensation, and the data will also allow carmakers to identify where and how self-driving features can be improved to enhance future safety.”