Last month the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission published a joint report recommending how automated vehicles should be regulated in Great Britain.
Automated vehicles are those that can drive themselves without being controlled by an individual for at least part of the journey. Many new vehicle models already include automated driving system (ADS) technology with many of the more advanced features yet to be activated.
The recommendations argue the need for the law to provide legal immunity to ‘users in charge’ e.g. the driver of a vehicle that is using a self-driving feature. Underpinning this is a proposed framework for defining what ‘self-driving’ is and the due diligence, testing and accountability required for the manufacture, oversight and authorisation of self-driving technologies.
So what does this mean in practice?
It means that where a car is being driven using a self-driving feature legal responsibility could be shifted away from the driver (user in charge) over to the manufacturer of the technology, defined as the Authorised Self-Driving Entity (ASDE). The report proposes that where a self-driving accident occurs an investigation should be undertaken to understand what is behind the fault and determine how the issue(s) could be prevented in future. This action would also determine liability and if any legal offences had been committed by the ASDE.
The automated vehicles report has been laid before the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments and now the governments will need to review the recommendations and decide whether or not to introduce new legislation.