But public scrutiny over safety concerns will not let up.
Amidst the continued testing of autonomous vehicle technology ahead of its impending introduction into everyday life, the Government's key piece of legislation on how these vehicles should be insured, and who is liable in the event of a collision involving an autonomous vehicle passed earlier this year.
Industry discussions over the next year will now move towards the technical and logistical issues required to fully implement autonomous driving. Issues of data privacy, data sharing and maintenance of vehicles will move to the forefront of these conversations.
In line with this, following the introduction of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, the Law Commission has commenced its first consultation as part of its three year remit from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
The first consultation, which will close in early February 2019, will address three issues below related to automated vehicles, as well as pledging to consult on regulating automated vehicles in public transport and mobility as a service in 2019.
- How safety, ongoing monitoring and maintenance can be assured before widespread purchase, as well as requirements once these vehicles are on the road.
- Criminal and civil liability arising from use.
- Adaptation of the existing rules of the road.
From a European perspective, the European Commission launched a consultation (concluding early December) seeking responses on cybersecurity threats, privacy and data protection needs, and different aspects of technology needs for 5G large scale testing. The responses received will feed into a new policy Recommendation to be considered next year.
Outside of the legislative arena, manufacturers will continue to invest in autonomous vehicles and engage in on-road testing. Such testing will likely arrive in the UK in 2019. The DRIVEN consortium recently confirmed its goal to commence autonomous vehicle testing on London's roads next year.
However, we expect any negative side effects of this testing to be subject to significant news reporting, as has been seen this year, particularly in relation to incidents involving fatalities in the US. We anticipate further incidents will attract enhanced scrutiny concerning the safety of vehicles on the road, with already falling consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles in the US as an example of the impact this can have.