One aspect of driverless cars that needs a lot of work, is legislation. We’ve talked about that here ad nauseum lately, but the British government also has it on the tip of its tongue and has planned not only the large scale test of different automated schemes set to take place in the next few months, but also a full review of British motoring law to update it for piloted cars. While it may take place sooner, the current plan is for the review to take place by Summer 2017.
The results of the upcoming test will provide evidence for many of the changes that will need to take place in order to make current driving laws fit in with driverless cars. As it stands, it’s not clear who would be at fault in the case of an accident involving a car with no one behind the wheel, or whether insurance would be necessary – all of this will need to be decided as part of the review.
“Driverless vehicle technology has the potential to be a real game-changer on the UK’s roads, altering the face of motoring in the most fundamental of ways and delivering major benefits for road safety, social inclusion, emissions and congestion,” said transport minister Claire Perry.
Perry and her contemporaries did acknowledge that fully driverless vehicles would be some way off – with early predictions pegging 2025 as the earliest we can expect fully functioning ones that can operate throughout Britain – but cars with basic automated features, like the ability to take over during a traffic jam or on the motorway, could arrive within the next couple of years, so legislation debates need to take place sooner rather than later.
Director of the RAC foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister also weighed in on the matter and discussed the changing nature of responsibility behind the wheel: “Alongside the hi-tech innovation you need policy decisions on long-term, low-tech matters such as who takes responsibility if things go wrong. As and when these vehicles become commonplace, there is likely to be a shift from personal to product liability and that is a whole new ball game for insurers and manufacturers.”
Another aspect the review will cover, is whether supporting infrastructure will be in place by the time it’s needed. Will garages have the know how to repair vehicles that become damaged or need tweaks to their automated software? Will roadside recovery be possible in a traditional manner? Is data security tight enough on these sorts of vehicles that people can’t be hacked and driven off in a direction that they aren’t able to control?
All these sorts of questions will be answered by the review and the upcoming trials, which are set to take place throughout the UK at a number of different cities. Some of them will operate more traditional automated cars,whilst others will use miniature shuttle systems designed for university campuses and similar.