Driverless car consultation launched by UK government

The UK government is launching a consultation to help pave the way for automated cars to be used on British roads, with all UK drivers being invited to have their say.

It will suggest a number of changes to the current driving rules in order to allow automated vehicles to be insured for use on the roads legally.

The Highway Code and other regulations are expected to be altered following the consultation so advanced driver-assistance systems that change lanes on the motorway and park the vehicle by remote control can be used legally.

The proposals will make two key changes to transport regulations:

the Highway Code and regulations will be changed to support the safe use of remote-control parking and motorway-assist features

insurance law will be changed so that, in the future, motorists who have handed control to their ‘self-driving’ cars can be insured properly

The proposed changes to insurance will be brought forward in the Modern Transport Bill. Motor insurance will remain compulsory but will be extended to cover product liability for automated vehicles.

But driverless car technology, and especially its safety ramifications, remains a contentious topic for the UK public with a recent survey showing that 65 per cent of motorists believe a human should always be in control of a vehicle. 

These concerns have also been given significant media coverage in the last few weeks following the crash of a Tesla Model S which collided with a truck in May, killing its driver while being steered by its autopilot facility.  The incident was officially the first fatal crash involving an autonomous car and was described as a major setback for self-driving technology.

“Driverless car technology will revolutionise the way we travel and deliver better journeys,” said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

“Britain is leading the way but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies.”

McLoughlin praised British roads, describing them as "some of the safest in the world," said he and believes that bringing driverless technologies to the UK could cut the number of accidents even further.

Cars with advanced driver-assistance features, like remote-control parking and motorway assist, are expected to be on sale in Britain in the next two to four years with automated and driverless vehicles expected on the roads any time from the mid-2020s onwards.

The consultation begins today and will last for nine weeks. It is the start of a rolling programme of reform on the roadmap to fully automated vehicles. For those wishing to contribute, the consultation can be found here.

“Insurers strongly support the government’s ambition of making the UK a world leader in this technology and believe the insurance industry has a key role in helping give consumers confidence in using these vehicles when they become more widely available,” said James Dalton, director at the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

“The driver’s insurer will still pay out in the normal way so road accident victims are promptly reimbursed – but the insurer will then be able to claim the money back from the car company if the vehicle is deemed to be at fault.”

Other concerns around driverless vehicles include the ability for hackers to potentially compromise the systems remotely.

“It is crucial that in its pursuit of innovation, the government doesn’t neglect the security essentials which will guarantee not only the success of these new technologies, but also the safety of its users,” said Gordon Morrison, director of government relations at Intel Security.

“With security researchers demonstrating the potential for hacking driverless cars, for example when a Jeep was remotely stopped on an American highway, the government must ensure that, as part of its innovative work with the automotive industry, cyber security remains a top priority.”

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them