The Government has issued a response to their major nine-week consultation on proposals to pave the way for developing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automated vehicle technologies (AVT).

The consultation is the Government's most recent step towards securing the UK's position at the forefront of developing automated vehicle technologies. It runs hand in hand with the Government's financial commitment, having pledged a further £30m from the Intelligent Mobility Fund for research and development. The government will introduce the Modern Transport Bill in the coming months, which will set out regulation for driverless vehicles.

The consultation invited responses on proposed changes including:

  1. Regulatory Reform: to cater for a mixed fleet of conventional cars, cars with increasingly sophisticated ADAS and fully automated vehicles on UK roads;
  2. Insurance: insurance for automated vehicles where the 'driver' is no longer controlling the vehicle; and
  3. ADAS: amendments to the Highway Code and Construction and Use Regulations so that driverless functions are able to be used safely.

Regulatory Reform

The Government proposes a rolling programme of reform; taking a step-by-step approach and implementing solutions to issues they foresee. The majority of the 480 responses the Government received supported this proposal as it allows the Government to respond to technological change quickly.

Insurance

The Government is aware of a number of restrictions in relation to their proposals blend the optional product liability regime with the compulsory motor insurance framework. However, they do not think any changes to product liability law would be proportionate at this stage.

Instead the Government proposes to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 to include use of automated vehicles and establish a single insurer model where the victim has a direct right against the motor insurer and the insurer has a direct right of recovery against the responsible party e.g. the manufacturer / software provider. An insurer will only be able to exclude the liability if the accident resulted from the driver making unauthorised modifications to the system or failed to install software updates.

The Government's decision of having a one policy to cover all risk has been welcomed by the insurance industry, particularly as the response clarifies a number of key uncertainties concerning liability.

ADAS

There was significant support for amending all Construction and Use Regulations and Highway Code Rules to facilitate ADAS, except for two key aspects:

  1. Construction and Use Regulation 109 which prohibits driver's screens displaying information unrelated to the driving task. The Government agreed that fully automated vehicles are required prior to changing this rule.
  2. Highway Code 126 on separation distances, to cater for the arrival of platooning technologies. Platooning is a method of increasing the capacity of roads by vehicles travelling in a 'bumper-to-bumper' line, which will lead to lower fuel consumption and fewer CO2 emissions. The Government intends to respond by conducting a series of controlled platooning trials in the near future.

Data sharing

The Government recognises the importance of a data sharing framework to underpin the proposed changes to the compulsory framework for motor insurance, as data will be required to determine who was in control of the vehicle at the time of the incident. However, as data generated will likely constitute "personal data" for the purposes of the Data Protection Act and will be necessary to address key liability issues in all driverless vehicles, it is likely international regulation will be needed.