Human drivers should not be legally accountable for road safety in the era of autonomous cars.

The person in the driving seat of a self-driving car should be redefined as a “user-in-charge” with significantly different legal responsibilities, said the law commissions for England and Wales, and Scotland.

Their report out this morning recommends that if anything goes wrong, the company or body behind the driving system would be held responsible, rather than the driver.

Nicholas Paines QC, Public Law Commissioner said:

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to promote public acceptance of automated vehicles with our recommendations on safety assurance and clarify legal liability. We can also make sure accessibility, especially for older and disabled people, is prioritised from the outset.”

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said:

“The development of self-driving vehicles in the UK has the potential to revolutionise travel, making every day journeys safer, easier and greener.

This Government has been encouraging development and deployment of these technologies to understand their benefits. However, we must ensure we have the right regulations in place, based upon safety and accountability, in order to build public confidence.

That’s why the Department funded this independent report and I look forward to fully considering the recommendations and responding in due course.”

The Law Commissions’ recommendations build on the reforms introduced by the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018. The 2018 Act ensured that victims who suffer injury or damage from a vehicle that was driving itself will not need to prove that anyone was at fault. Instead, the insurer will compensate the victim directly.


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