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New AV Bill to deliver legal framework for self-driving vehicles on UK roads

Posted: 10 November 2023 | | No comments yet

The Automated Vehicles Bill, announced in the King’s Speech on 7 November 2023, will deliver a comprehensive legal framework for self-driving vehicles in the UK, with safety at its core.

New Automated Vehicles Bill to deliver legal framework for self-driving vehicles on UK roads

New laws introduced into Parliament on 8 November 2023 will put safety at the heart of the roll-out of self-driving vehicle technology and position the UK as world-leaders of the £42 billion industry.

As announced in the King’s Speech on 7 November 2023, the UK Government’s new Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill will deliver one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks of its kind anywhere in the world for self-driving vehicles, with safety at its core.

The new safety framework will ensure clear liability for the user, set the safety threshold for legal self-driving and establish an in-use regulatory scheme to monitor the ongoing safety of these vehicles.

Self-driving vehicles could help to reduce deaths and injuries from drink driving, speeding and driver tiredness, with 88% of road collisions having human error as a contributory factor. But, before these vehicles are allowed on the UK’s roads, they will now have to meet or exceed rigorous new safety requirements, set out in law. 

The technology will also help to make travel more convenient and accessible, improving the lives of millions of people who can not drive.

They can be used to better connect rural communities, improving access to essential services and reducing isolation. They can make last-mile delivery and long-haul freight services more efficient, reduce congestion and they can provide on-demand transport services.

This Bill will help to cement the UK’s position as a global leader in this high tech and high growth industry, which could create up to 38,000 jobs.

It comes amid wider government funding and support for trials of self-driving technologies in the UK, like the £66 million Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility fund, which is supporting 20 projects in nearly 50 organisations to develop prototype passenger and logistics self-driving services.

The UK Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Our new Bill ensures safety is at the heart of our plans to see self-driving vehicles on our roads, making the UK a great place to develop this technology. 

We have the opportunity to put the UK at the forefront of a fast-growing, multi-billion-pound industry by providing the clarity and certainty for business to develop and invest in this exciting technology,” he concluded.

Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, said: “Today marks a landmark occasion as we usher in the future of transport, aiming at safer, greener and more efficient travel for all.”

The AV Bill’s comprehensive legal framework has safety and the protection of the user at its core.

This will be done through: 

  • Creating a rigorous new safety framework: setting the safety threshold for self-driving vehicles in law, while giving government the tools it needs to enforce standards and hold companies to account
  • Ensuring clear legal liability at all times: making companies responsible for how their self-driving vehicles behave on the road and protecting users from being unfairly held accountable
  • Protecting consumers and the public: ensuring only vehicles that meet rigorous self-driving standards can be marketed as such.

All self-driving vehicles will be required to undergo robust safety testing before they are permitted to drive on UK roads, and the AV Bill will ensure clear legal liability when a vehicle is driving itself by creating new legal entities responsible for self-driving.  

Every authorised self-driving vehicle will have a corresponding Authorised Self-Driving Entity – often the manufacturer – which will be responsible for the behaviour of the vehicle when self-driving. Companies will have ongoing obligations to keep their vehicles safe and ensure that they continue to drive in accordance with British laws.  

The AV Bill will prohibit misleading market practices, including around using ambiguous terminology in advertising material around whether their vehicles classify as self-driving. Regulations under the Bill will set out specific terminology and symbols which will be reserved for marketing-authorised self-driving vehicles. Unauthorised and improper use of this terminology will be against the law and a criminal offence. 

The laws implement the recommendations of the review of self-driving vehicle regulation carried out by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission. This landmark review brings together over four years of legal work, three rounds of public consultation and hundreds of responses from a wide range of organisations and individuals. 

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