Proper regulation of the use of self-driving vehicles, and assurances over safety, are high in the public's mind, the Law Commissions for Scotland and for England & Wales reveal today as they publish an analysis of responses to their first consultation on the subject.
Almost 80% agree that an automated vehicle should have a user-in-charge in a position to operate the controls if necessary, unless the vehicle is specifically authorised as able to function safely without one. That person should be qualified and fit to drive. The Commissions promise to give further thought to the position of remote operators, a question raised by many consultees.
Handovers between machine and human are "a matter of acute public concern"; and there is also strong support (84%) for a new safety assurance scheme to authorise automated driving systems installed as modifications to registered vehicles, or in vehicles manufactured in limited numbers. The issue has also been raised about when and how systems should be updated.
Difficulties emerged over retaining data in the event of an accident. Insurers thought it would be diffficult to defend claims without automatic reporting, with potential for fraud, but lawyers argued that there may be many reasons why people do not initially make a claim. The Commissions "do not wish to curtail limitation periods at this stage".
On criminal liability, for offences “committed” while the automated driving system is engaged and the problem appears to lie with the system, the police should refer the matter to a regulatory authority, such as the agency responsible for the safety assurance scheme. There was 89% support for the authority then being able to apply a range of sanctions.
The Commissions also favour a review of the law of corporate criminal offences, while adding: "we note the concerns of developers and manufacturers about stifling innovation and have not yet reached any view about the outcome".
Click here to access the analysis and a summary. A second consultation on automated road passenger services is due for publication later this year.