Kennedys welcomes rolling programme of reform for autonomous cars

The government has published its response to the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles consultation: Pathway to driverless cars: Consultation on proposals to support Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Automated Vehicles.

In response, we have welcomed the government’s measured response, saying it highlights real-intent to ensure that the UK is a world-leader in automated vehicle technology.

Deborah Newberry, Head of Corporate and Public Affairs at Kennedys, says: “It is clear from the government response that policymakers remain fully committed to ensuring the UK’s place at the forefront of the driverless cars revolution and we applaud their sensible “rolling reform” approach given the complexities involved.

“It is heartening to see that the government has received a positive response from automotive, road safety, legal and insurance bodies on its rolling programme of reform and focus on near to market technologies, which will mean that work in these areas will continue apace."

Of course, there is still a great deal of work to do around clarifying rules and regulations relating to the legislative and insurance framework, to include the Highway Code and international regulation. We eagerly await the government’s consultations on specific proposals for amendment and expect, as stated, the focus of issues to include data sharing and road safety.

Deborah added: “The government’s decision to amend its insurance proposal is noteworthy. By extending compulsory motor vehicle insurance to create a single insurer model, the government is seeking to protect innocent victims of a collision where the autonomous vehicle causes a crash in automated mode. That is of course to be welcomed and mirrors the stated aim for minimum legislative changes for the time being. However, in the longer term, we expect to see a change in the way that driverless cars are insured.

“Eventually primary legislation will be required but doing so now would be ‘too much, too soon’ against the background of the: (i) Intention to encourage innovation and inward investment in this area; and (ii) Estimated period of 15-20 years before the majority of vehicles on the road in the UK are highly or fully autonomous.

“In time, highly or fully autonomous vehicles are likely to be considered a different class of vehicle that requires additional compulsory cover. The most likely product will be an insurance package underwritten by a motor insurer that the manufacturer offers at the point of purchase, use or hire of the vehicle.

“For now, the government is relying on market forces and a necessary dialogue between insurers and manufacturers to ensure that driver safety remains firmly at the centre of technological development.

“We expect the government will now bring forward its insurance proposals in the Modern Transport Bill as early as March. It will be essential that any changes to the Road Traffic Act 1998 are clear and workable and we will be watching this closely.”