Driverless car users may not be liable in accidents

Law Commission proposes motorists in driverless cars should be renamed “users in charge” as part of “no-blame culture”

Jaguar Land Rover autonomous testing - static

Users of future driverless cars may be absolved from blame in the event of an accident or offence, if recommendations from Government law experts are accepted.

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have conducted a consultation, the results of which propose any driverless cars that may emerge in coming years or decades should operate within a “no-blame culture”, where drivers are renamed “users in charge”.

The Commissions recommend that the blame for anything from a speeding offence to a fatal accident should automatically be transferred from a vehicle’s owner or user to the manufacturer of that vehicle.

The consultation endorses a “learning culture” in which accidents and other incidents can be used to improve driverless vehicle technology. The Commissions will, however, seek views on whether to review the possibility of new corporate offences to address instances where errors by a developer of driverless-vehicle technology result in death or serious injury.

Considerations have also been made with regard to safety: a two-track system has been proposed, which would allow manufacturers to choose whether to get type approval for driverless cars under an international framework, or a national scheme. This would be followed by a categorisation decision to establish whether the vehicle can be classed as self-driving in the UK, and how it can lawfully be used on our roads.

There are also proposals in place around the categorisation of autonomous vehicles and what the responsibilities of their operators and users should be. Users will still be responsible for insuring vehicles, except in cases where they are operated as part of a fleet, in which case this responsibility will lie with the operator.

Nicholas Paines QC, public law commissioner, said: “As the UK prepares for the introduction of automated vehicles on our streets, it’s vital that the public have confidence in this technology.

“Our proposed legal framework will ensure that this technology can be safely deployed, whilst the flexibility built into the rules and regulations will allow us to keep up with advances in the technology.”

The news follows Government proposals on law changes that would allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel when using cars fitted with ALKS (Automated Lane Keeping System), a move generally seen as an early legislative change that paves the way for more sophisticated technologies - though the ALKS plans met with criticism from safety experts.

Can self-driving cars be safely integrated onto our roads? Let us know your views in the comments...

Recommended

Thatcham approved devices and crash tests explained
Joe Finnerty in Hyper G sled
Consumer news

Thatcham approved devices and crash tests explained

Thatcham studies crashes, rates alarms and sets insurance groups to help cut drivers’ costs. We find out how
11 May 2021
Company car tax guide 2021/2022: everything you need to know
Executive saloons make popular company cars
Consumer news

Company car tax guide 2021/2022: everything you need to know

Company car tax is bound up in a complex net of emissions, salaries and a car's value; we explain how the system looks for the 2021/22 Financial Year
27 Apr 2021
No new smart motorways to open without stopped vehicle detection
smart motorway
News

No new smart motorways to open without stopped vehicle detection

Implementation of SVD technology to be accelerated, with existing smart motorways getting the system six months earlier than planned
21 Apr 2021
Breakdowns following pothole strikes surge by highest rate ever seen
Potholes
Consumer news

Breakdowns following pothole strikes surge by highest rate ever seen

Report shows 37 per cent increase over the last quarter, as breakdown firm warns roads “are like the surface of the moon”
20 Apr 2021

Most Popular

'Just because impressive tech is available, it shouldn’t necessarily be installed in cars'
Opinion tech
Opinion

'Just because impressive tech is available, it shouldn’t necessarily be installed in cars'

Mike Rutherford says designers, car makers and politicians need to consult motorists more often
16 May 2021
New 2022 Dacia Bigster to move budget brand into large SUV market
Dacia Bigster - front (watermarked)
Dacia

New 2022 Dacia Bigster to move budget brand into large SUV market

The Dacia Bigster SUV will arrive with value in mind, but hybrid tech will also appear. Our exclusive images preview how it could look
14 May 2021
New 2021 BMW 2 Series Coupe specs confirmed ahead of summer launch
BMW 2 Series Coupe - exclusive image
BMW 2 Series Coupe

New 2021 BMW 2 Series Coupe specs confirmed ahead of summer launch

The new BMW 2 Series Coupe will be aimed at keen drivers, with the M240i model offering four-wheel drive and a 369bhp straight-six engine. Our exclusi…
17 May 2021