Manufacturers of self-driving vehicles should face penalties if their system causes a crash, and not the passenger inside, UK legal bodies have recommended.
The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have published a joint report making recommendations for the safe and responsible introduction of autonomous vehicles.
He suggests the creation of a new automated vehicle law that regulates vehicles that can drive themselves and creates a clear distinction between features that only help drivers, such as adaptive cruise control, and those who are autonomous.
Under the Law Commissions’ proposals, when a car is licensed by a regulator as having “self-driving features” and those features are used, the person driving would no longer be responsible for driving the car.
Instead, the company or organization that obtained the authorization would face regulatory penalties if something went wrong.
The person occupying the driver’s seat would therefore no longer be a driver but a “responsible user” who cannot be prosecuted for offenses resulting directly from the actions of driving the vehicle.
They would be immune to a wide range of offenses – from reckless driving to going over the speed limit or running a red light. However, they would retain certain tasks such as taking out insurance, checking loads or making sure children are wearing seat belts.
According to a recent poll, the majority of people in the UK now have a positive attitude towards driverless vehicles, although many would feel even more comfortable with a human operator ready to take control at all times.
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 clarifying legal liability. We can also ensure that accessibility, especially for the elderly and disabled, is a priority from the start. »
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “The development of autonomous vehicles in the UK has the potential to revolutionize travel, making daily journeys safer, easier and greener.
The report was tabled in Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. It will be up to the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to decide whether or not to accept the Commission’s recommendations and introduce legislation to implement them.
Some Tesla vehicles already have a limited form of driverless functionality, but in November the company was forced to recall nearly 12,000 vehicles sold since 2017 over concerns the feature could trigger a false forward collision warning or unexpected activation of emergency brakes.
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