The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill received Royal Assent on the 19th July 2018, becoming the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 (“the Act”). However, it contains a Commencement Order which means that most sections (apart from the pre-amble) will need to be enacted by regulation at the orders of the Secretary of State for Transport via statutory instrument.

The Act is split in to two distinct parts. The first part concerns automated vehicles and liability. The second part concerns electric vehicles and makes provision for access to widespread charging facilities. At only 24 pages in total, the Act could be considered a light touch approach to the regulatory issues facing automated and electric vehicles at this time.

Automated Vehicles

This section mainly considers the position of insurers and what is regarded to be contributory negligent in an accident concerning an automated vehicle. An automated vehicle is a vehicle which can safely and legally drive itself, in at least some circumstances. It is also worth noting that this section only applies to Great Britain, instead of the whole of the United Kingdom. A summary of the main points are as follows.

  • The basic premise is, where the vehicle is insured, and it is involved in an accident in Great Britain, the liability shall lie with the insurer. If it is not properly insured, the owner is liable.
  • The owner or insurer is not liable where the person in charge of vehicle (if different from the owner) was negligent in allowing the vehicle to begin driving itself when it was not appropriate to do so. Unfortunately, the Act provides no further guidance about when would and would not be an appropriate time to let an automated vehicle drive itself.
  • Insurers may exclude or limit liability if the accident occurred as a direct result of either prohibited software alterations or a failure to install safety-critical software updates. Insurers are also able to recover insurance pay-outs in these circumstances where it is provided for in the insurance policy.

Electric Vehicles

This section concerns both electric and hydrogen powered vehicles. This section does not provide any concrete rules surrounding the use of electric vehicles, other than to lay down the areas which we would expect to see future regulation. These future statutory instruments can be at the request of the elected mayor of the relevant area in question. To summarise, the Act envisages future regulations in the following areas.

  • Methods of payment for public charging points.
  • Available information about public charging points including their performance, maintenance and availability.
  • Clarification as to who is responsible for providing public charging points. The Act envisages that this will concern large fuel retailers or service area operators. However, these terms will be further defined in regulations.
  • Whether public charging facilities will need to be available for public use at prescribed times.
  • The technical specifications and abilities of the charging points e.g. the ability to monitor and record energy consumption or comply with security requirements.

Conclusions

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the future regulation of automated or electric vehicles. This Act provides some simple ground rules for automated vehicles and the liability of insurers. It also provides for the provision of more regulation surrounding electric vehicles but does not provide specifics. Furthermore, it is not currently clear when the Act will be in force. However, the Act does provide a snapshot of the Government’s considerations to make the use of electric vehicles widely accessible.