Automated vehicle bill will need to deliver says insurer

Insurers have said there is much to do if the UK is to safely introduce autonomous vehicles onto the country’s roads.

New laws were introduced in the UK parliament late last week which the country’s government said will “will put safety at the heart of the roll-out of self-driving vehicle technology and position the UK as world-leaders of this exciting £42 billion industry.

In a statement it added the new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill will deliver one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks of its kind anywhere in the world for self-driving vehicles, with safety at its core.

“The new safety framework will ensure clear liability for the user, set the safety threshold for legal self-driving and establish an in-use regulatory scheme to monitor the ongoing safety of these vehicles,” The statement added. “Self-driving vehicles could help reduce deaths and injuries from drink driving, speeding and driver tiredness, with 88% of road collisions having human error as a contributory factor. But before these vehicles are allowed on our roads, they will now have to meet or exceed rigorous new safety requirements, set out in law.

“The technology will also help make travel more convenient and accessible, improving the lives of millions of people who cannot drive.”

The government said autonomous vehicles can be used to better connect rural communities, improving access to essential services and reducing isolation. They can make last-mile delivery and long-haul freight services more efficient, reduce congestion and they can provide on-demand transport services.

It added the Bill will help cement the UK’s position as a global leader in this high tech and high growth industry, which could create up to 38,000 jobs.

UK transport secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Our new Bill ensures safety is at the heart of our plans to see self-driving vehicles on our roads, making the UK a great place to develop this technology.

“We have the opportunity to put the UK at the forefront of a fast-growing, multi-billion-pound industry by providing the clarity and certainty for business to develop and invest in this exciting technology.”

The AV Bill’s comprehensive legal framework has safety and the protection of the user at its core the government added.

This will be done through:

  • creating a rigorous new safety framework: setting the safety threshold for self-driving vehicles in law, while giving government the tools it needs to enforce standards and hold companies to account.
  • ensuring clear legal liability at all times: making companies responsible for how their self-driving vehicles behave on the road and protecting users from being unfairly held accountable.
  • protecting consumers and the public: ensuring only vehicles that meet rigorous self-driving standards can be marketed as such.

All self-driving vehicles will be required to undergo robust safety testing before they are permitted to drive on UK roads, and the AV Bill will ensure clear legal liability when a vehicle is driving itself by creating new legal entities responsible for self-driving.

Every authorised self-driving vehicle will have a corresponding Authorised Self-Driving Entity– often the manufacturer – which will be responsible for the behaviour of the vehicle when self-driving. Companies will have ongoing obligations to keep their vehicles safe and ensure that they continue to drive in accordance with British laws.

The government added the Bill will prohibit misleading market practices, including around using ambiguous terminology in advertising material around whether their vehicles classify as self-driving. Regulations under the Bill will set out specific terminology and symbols which will be reserved for marketing authorised self-driving vehicles. Unauthorised and improper use of this terminology will be against the law and a criminal offence.

Jon Dye, Director of Motor at QBE Europe said the bill, while welcomed, needed to deliver if insurers were to be able to play a role.

“The introduction of self-driving vehicles will profoundly change road dynamics and poses questions around responsibility and accountability which I am pleased to see are called out in the Automated Vehicles Bill,” he said. “I thoroughly support the introduction of the legislation but also the importance of being very prescriptive and clear on the data sharing necessary between vehicle manufacturers and insurers to support an acceptable experience for claimants.

“I’m reassured to see Consumer protection singled out but I believe we also need more emphasis on driver education. Eliminating misleading marketing is important but a robust training and evaluation programme is also required to ensure that drivers understand what their automated vehicle is and crucially isn’t capable of. In my opinion the Bill currently stops too short on this front”

Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO of Wayve, the developer of AI software designed to drive autonomous vehicle performance  said the bill will deliver renewed confidence to companies which are developing autonomous vehicle systems.

“The announcement that the government will bring forward legislation for self-driving signals to the global self-driving industry that the UK government is committed to fostering innovation for the future of transport,” he explained. “By setting out a clear path to commercialisation, new primary legislation for self-driving vehicles gives us the confidence to continue investing in research and development and growing our talent base here in the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government to cement the UK’s role as a global centre of excellence for self-driving technology that will make our roads safer and unlock new growth.”

New laws were introduced in the UK parliament late last week which the country’s government said will “will put safety at the heart of the roll-out of self-driving vehicle technology and position the UK as world-leaders of this exciting £42 billion industry.

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