Rules for Automated Vehicles in the UK

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have collaborated on a report. The issue is automated vehicles, and the report presents recommendations for a safe and responsible rollout of self-driving vehicles.

The Law Commission is a statutory independent organisation tasked with reviewing the law and recommending reforms when necessary.

What was the purpose of the report?

The Scottish Law Commissioner raised concerns about how the law should address self-driving vehicles. According to the Public Law Commissioner, there was a chance to increase public acceptance of autonomous vehicles by making safety recommendations and clarifying legal liability.

The paper suggests that new legislation be enacted to regulate automated vehicles, with a clear distinction made between elements that aid drivers and those that are self-driving.

As autonomous cars advance, it is possible that a vehicle will be able to drive without the need for human involvement. The legal ramifications of such a development are enormous. The human in the driver’s seat would not be the primary focus of road safety accountability. This will necessitate new safety assurance mechanisms, which the paper suggests be executed through a new Automated Vehicle Act that establishes new regulatory frameworks and “new legal actors.”

The most important suggestions

  • Create a legal test for self-driving cars, with a clear line drawn between self-driving and driver assistance capabilities, a transparent process for establishing a safety standard, and new offences to prevent misleading marketing.
  • The current domestic and international technical vehicle approval scheme would serve as the foundation for an approval and authorization process. To allow vehicles to be used as self-driving on UK roads, a new second step would be added.
  • A safety assurance programme will be implemented to give regulatory monitoring throughout the lifetime of an automated vehicle to verify that it remains safe and follows all traffic laws.
  • Users, manufacturers, and service providers will all have legal duties to play. The person in the passenger seat will no longer be held criminally responsible.
    Manufacturers and service providers will face criminal charges if they falsify or fail to provide safety-related information.

What exactly are Automated Vehicles?

The term “automated vehicles”  or AVs is used to refer to self-driving cars. The vehicles are also known as self-driving automobiles or autonomous vehicles. For at least portion of the journey, they can drive alone without being supervised or monitored by another person.

Driver assistance differs from self-driving in that the former is available to assist the driver. Assistance in maintaining a safe distance from the driver in front is an example of driver support.

It is expected that driver assistance features will advance to the point where a car will be able to drive itself without human intervention in the future.

What is the definition of self-driving?

In the report, the term is used to denote a legal limit. When a vehicle has a self-drive ADS (automated driving system) feature turned on, the person in the driver’s seat is not responsible for the dynamic driving duty. When a person is no longer responsible for the dynamic driving duty, a clear differentiation must be made. Because the ADS is in charge of monitoring the driving environment and responding to incidents, the person in the driver’s seat (if there is one) can relax and redirect their focus.

It will be illegal to refer to a feature as “self-driving” unless it has been approved.

Scheme of Authorization

Whether or not any ADS feature is self-driving will be determined by the approval scheme.


The system of legal accountability will alter once a vehicle is approved as having self-driving ADS features:

The person in the driver’s seat will be designated as a “user-in-charge” and will be immune to a variety of offences. Other driver responsibilities will be retained, such as arranging insurance and inspecting loads.

An Authorised Self-Driving Entity will back a vehicle (ASDE). The ADS feature would be dealt with as a regulatory concern if it caused the car to drive in a criminal manner. The issue would be between the ASDE and the in-use regulator. The focus would be on comprehending and learning from the problem.

The term “no user-in-charge” (NUIC) refers to ADS features that can be enabled without a user-in-charge. Anyone in the car would just be a passenger. A licenced NUIC operator would be in charge of the journey’s supervision.

The provisions of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 will apply to civil liability. The insurance company will compensate the injured without requiring the victim to show that anyone was to blame.

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