Self-driving car proposals would ‘betray laws of the road’ leaving motorists as ‘victims’

In January, the Law Commission of England and Wales published their joint report which made recommendations for the safe and responsible introduction of self-driving vehicles. The report recommended the creation of a new Automated Vehicles Act, to regulate vehicles that can drive themselves, something which could become far more common in the coming years.

It recommends drawing a clear distinction between features which just assist drivers, such as adaptive cruise control, and those that are self-driving.

Under the Law Commissions’ proposals, when a car is authorised by a regulatory agency as having “self-driving features” and those features are in-use, the person in the driving seat would no longer be responsible for how the car drives. 

Instead, the company or body that obtained the authorisation (an Authorised Self-Driving Entity) would face regulatory sanctions if anything goes wrong.

Louis Rix, co-founder and COO of car finance platform CarFinance 247, warned that the new proposals could increase danger on the roads.

READ MORE: Major driving law changes set to be introduced in February 2022

“The person in the driver’s seat should still be considered the ‘driver’ of the vehicle, no matter its self-automation capabilities.

“As for the hopes that this would build public confidence in self-driving technology, there’s an equal, if not stronger, chance that this optimism could swing entirely in the opposite direction. 

“Many may believe that these developments leave them risk-free when using the roads in or with self-driving technology.

“But opinions will change when road users become victims of the offences that this report defends.”

These features may develop to a point where an automated vehicle will be able to drive itself for at least part of a journey, without a human paying attention to the road. 

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison MP said the development of self-driving vehicles in the UK has the potential to “revolutionise travel”.

She added: “This Government has been encouraging development and deployment of these technologies to understand their benefits.

“However, we must ensure we have the right regulations in place, based upon safety and accountability, in order to build public confidence.

“That’s why the Department funded this independent report and I look forward to fully considering the recommendations and responding in due course.”

Earlier this month, Tesla was forced to recall 53,822 cars because their “Full Self-Driving” software allowed the cars to roll through stop signs.

Selected Tesla drivers are “beta testing” the software on public roads, with the Elon Musk-owned company saying they were not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the feature.

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