Law commission

Self-driving car users should be immune to traffic offences, Law Commission says

Self-driving car users should be granted immunity from a wide range of traffic offences, UK law commissions have said.

The Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have suggested drivers should not be prosecuted for a range of traffic offences, such as dangerous driving and going through red lights.

They argue that the driver should be redefined as a “responsible user”, who would have different legal responsibilities.

The commissions are proposing the creation of an automated vehicle law to reflect the “profound legal implications” of self-driving cars. Under the rewritten rules, the person occupying the driver’s seat would not be responsible for the way the vehicle was driven. Instead, the company that licensed the car would face penalties if something went wrong.

Automakers also need to be clear about the difference between autonomous vehicles and those with driver assistance features.

A report summarizing the findings of the law commissions stated: “When a vehicle is self-driving, we do not believe that a human should be required to respond to events in the absence of a transition request (a requirement for the driver to take control).

“It is unrealistic to expect someone who is not paying attention to the route to deal with (for example) a tire blowout or a closed road sign. Even hearing ambulance sirens will be difficult for those with hearing impairments or who listen to loud music.

The “responsible user” will still be in charge of certain tasks, such as making sure the car is insured and checking that passengers are wearing their seat belts.

Matthew Avery, head of research strategy at Thatcham Research, who took part in the consultation, said: “We welcome the recommendations which require car manufacturers to use appropriate terminology when marketing these systems, in order to avoid motorists are convinced that their car is fully autonomous. drive when not.

“Over the next 12 months we are likely to see the first iterations of self-driving features on cars in the UK.

“It is significant that the Law Commission report outlines the legal obligations of the driver and how they should understand that their vehicle is not yet fully autonomous.”

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 Ministry of Transport has already given the green light to automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS), which allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel.

Drivers using ALKS do not need to monitor the road, but must be able to take over within 10 seconds when requested by the system.

Last week, California prosecutors filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla who ran a red light – while on autopilot – and hit another car and killed two people.