Automated Vehicles Act 2024: a welcome development for industry

Granted Royal Assent yesterday, the Automated Vehicles Bill has become law in the UK.  Marking an important development towards enabling the safe deployment of self-driving, a legal framework that provides the foundation for a new regulatory and liability scheme for automated vehicles (AVs). 

Alongside requirements to provide certain information regarding AV safety, the new Act will contain measures of central importance to insurers. Importantly, the Act includes provision for sharing of information held by ‘authorised self-driving entities’ and ‘licensed no-user-in-charge operators’, with private business including insurers.  Whilst acknowledged as a key matter during parliamentary debates, the detail on this is not contained in the Act, but is expected to follow in secondary legislation - informed by further consultation - and in many respects is crucial to the successful implementation of this technology.

Insurers will require access to data following a collision involving an AV to establish who or what was in control of the vehicle at material times. In particular, it will be imperative for court experts and insurers to have ready access to event data records and sensor data from vehicles in civil and criminal litigation involving AVs.

Other provisions include immunity for ‘drivers’ in relation to incidents where the vehicle in question was driving autonomously at the relevant time, marketing restrictions and the introduction of a permit system for automated passenger services, such as driverless shuttle buses.

The uncontroversial passage of the Bill through Parliament demonstrates cross-party support for innovative forms of transport in the UK.  Although the Act sets out the overall framework to govern AVs, secondary legislation will follow to provide the regulatory detail, including that relating to authorisation and in-use regulation.  While consultations to shape that detail are expected later this year, it may be that the focus of such measures will resume following the General Election, which must be held no later than 28 January 2025.