The United Kingdom is set to become a world leader in driverless vehicle technologies according to the Department of Transport today.
A review of existing legislation and regulation has concluded that there is nothing to prevent the testing of driverless vehicles on UK roads, so long as a test driver is present in the vehicle and it can be shown that the vehicle complies with road traffic laws. Driverless vehicle testing will not therefore be limited to private test tracks in the UK and no licences or permits will be required. This puts the UK in a world leading position compared to competitor countries, such as the USA, who continue to grapple with complex regulatory frameworks.
However, a Code of Practice will be released later in 2015 to set the basis on which testing can occur in the UK. Whilst this will not be statutory the Government has made it clear that failure to comply with the Code of Conduct will be a "clear indicator of negligence". Any changes required of existing regulation will be made by 2017.
The main challenge at the time of writing appears to be in respect of liability and insurance coverage. Whilst the Government will not require a surety bond from testers who have insurance cover it is clear that guidance is needed on the criminal and civil liabilities of testers in the event of an accident involving a driverless vehicle. This will be considered in the next Parliament following the General Election in May. Additional concerns in respect of privacy and cyber risk will no doubt be considered in line with ongoing European legislation, namely the Data Protection Directive and the Network and Information Security Directive.
Driverless vehicles are anticipated to become a core feature in UK cities as part of intelligent transport systems within connected Smart City infrastructure.
The full Goverment review can be read on their website.