Automated Vehicles

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

The teams are developing policy. The final report is due in the final quarter of 2021.

Documents

Summary of responses to Consultation Paper 3 and next steps

All responses to Consultation Paper 3

Draft impact assessment and questions about the impact of law reform options

Automated Vehicles strategic economic analysis

Overview of consultation paper 3.

Welsh language overview of consultation paper 3.

Summary of consultation paper 3.

Automated Vehicles: Consultation Paper 3 – A regulatory framework for automated vehicles.

The project

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has asked the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission to undertake a far-reaching review of the legal framework for automated vehicles, and their use as part of public transport networks and on-demand passenger services.

By automated vehicles we refer to vehicles that are capable of driving themselves without being controlled or monitored by an individual for at least part of a journey. We also consider issues arising at the boundary between self-driving vehicles and widely used driver assistance technologies such as cruise control.

Timeline

This project is running from 2018 to 2021 and includes three rounds of consultation.

In November 2018 we launched our first three-month consultation on safety assurance and legal liability. We published an analysis of responses and interim findings in June 2019.

Our second consultation paper on highly automated road passenger services (HARPS) covers the regulation of remotely operated fleets of automated vehicles and their relationship with public transport. The second consultation paper was published in October 2020. We published an analysis of responses and interim findings in May 2020.

Our third consultation was launched in December 2020 and drew on responses to both previous papers to formulate overarching proposals on the way forward. The closing date for responses was 18 March 2021. After analysing responses, we published a summary of responses and next steps and draft Impact Assessment in July 2021.

We will provide final recommendations in the last quarter of 2021.

Our previous consultation papers, analysis documents and full text of all responses received for all our consultations can be found at the bottom of this page, under the heading “Consultations and related documents”.

Work so far

Our first consultation (November 2018 to February 2019)

We covered three key themes in Consultation Paper 1. First, we considered how safety can be assured before automated vehicles are placed on the market, as well as ongoing monitoring and maintenance requirements once they are on the road. Second, we explored criminal and civil liability. Finally, we examined the need to adapt road rules for artificial intelligence.

Analysis of responses to Consultation Paper 1 (June 2019)

In addition to extensive input before and during consultation through meetings and conferences, we are very grateful for the 178 written responses to our preliminary consultation paper. In all, we received over 2600 pages of detailed and interesting discussion from a wide variety of consultees including individuals, transport research experts, car manufacturers and developers, safety and disability groups, insurers, the police, local government, lawyers and academics.

We produced a detailed analysis of responses, as well as a summary of what consultees said. The central finding from our work so far relates to safety assurance: there was overwhelming support for a national safety assurance scheme for automated driving systems.

Our second consultation (October 2019 to February 2020)

In Consultation Paper 2 we focused on the regulation of Highly Automated Road Passenger Services, or “HARPS”. We have coined the term HARPS to encapsulate the idea of a new service. It refers to a service which uses highly automated vehicles to supply road journeys to passengers without a human driver or user-in-charge. The vehicle would be able to travel empty or with only passengers on board. In other words, there is no person in the vehicle with legal responsibility for its safety.

We considered a national operator licensing scheme for HARPS. The expense and technical challenges of safely operating passenger-only vehicles make it less likely that many individuals will own them for private use, at least initially, but we also consider this use case in the paper. We covered accessibility for older and disabled people, how to control congestion on public roads and how regulation can help self-driving vehicles integrate with public transport.

Under our terms of reference, we have been asked to focus on passenger transport, as opposed to goods deliveries. However, we welcomed observations on our proposals from those involved in the freight industry and to highlight where passenger provisions may or may not be appropriate.

Analysis of responses to Consultation Paper 2 (May 2020)

We received 109 written responses providing nearly two thousand pages of feedback on the questions we asked in our consultation on HARPS. We received the greatest number of responses from research, consultancy and professional organisations (22%); legal professionals (17%); OEMs, developers and operators (16%); and safety and road user groups (12%).

We produced a full analysis of responses (including extensive quotes) as well as a summary of what consultees said. The key finding from these responses is that people supported national licensing for HARPS operators. This could be three national systems for each of Scotland, England and Wales.

Since our consultation closed in early February COVID-19 has radically changed our way of life and brought increased uncertainty about the future. We will continue to engage with people to better understand the impacts as we move forward in the remaining stages of our review.

Our third consultation (December 2020 to March 2021)

Consultation Paper 3 outlined a proposed regulatory framework for automated vehicles. We aimed to keep safety and technological advancement at the forefront of our proposals, while also retaining the flexibility required to regulate for uncertain future development. The proposals in Consultation Paper 3 develop a safety assurance scheme for the approval and deployment of AVs, safety and criminal liability. They include:

The creation of distinctive rules for two types of automated driving features: Category-1 features that might require human driving for part of a journey (for example, AVs that only drive themselves on the motorway) and Category-2 features that can complete a whole journey unaided and without a user in the vehicle (such as a remotely operated ride-hailing fleet).

Proposals to enhance safety, for the deployment of AVs on British roads and during their lifetime. This covers vehicle approval as well as software updates and cybersecurity risks. It includes a shift away from the criminal enforcement of traffic rules towards a new no-blame safety culture including a new range of regulatory sanctions.

New legal roles to reflect legal responsibilities arising from automated driving: for developers of AVs, users of AVs that are less than drivers but more than passengers (the user-in-charge), and AV fleet operators.

Summary of responses to Consultation Paper 3 and next steps, draft Impact Assessment and questions (July 2021)

We received 117 written responses to our third consultation from a diverse range of stakeholders. We are grateful for their considered and detailed comments.

The summary of responses and next steps document provides a brief overview of what people told us in those responses. It sets out the next steps for the project and indicates the direction of travel on some key policy areas. The full text responses are also available on our website. We intend to publish a much fuller analysis of responses, including quotations and detailed discussion of consultees’ views, alongside our final report at the end of the year.

Our final report will also include an impact assessment. We recognise the many unknowns regarding the development of self-driving technology, its capabilities and social acceptance. We have published some questions about the possible impact of the law reform options put forward in our third consultation, alongside a draft impact assessment. We will use input received to help finalise the impact assessment that will accompany our final report.

Next steps

We will use the feedback from the third consultation to work towards our final report and recommendations, which we plan to publish in the final quarter of 2021.

Contact

By email to automatedvehicles@lawcommission.gov.uk or by phone:020 3334 0200.

 

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law

Commissioner

Nicholas Paines QC