The UK government has launched a consultation to help pave the way for the use of automated vehicles on British roads, with members of the public invited to have their say.
At the heart of the consultation are two new proposals that will be introduced as part of a rolling programme designed to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of the development of autonomous technology.
The first proposal is focused on clarifying the insurance law surrounding autonomous vehicles.
“Insurance law will be changed so that, in the future, motorists who have handed control to their ‘self-driving’ cars can be insured properly,” said the Department for Transport (DfT) on its website.
Working closely with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the government has concluded that motor insurance will remain compulsory, but the scope of the coverage will have to change, with insurance extended to cover product liability for automated vehicles. The decision is positive for drivers of autonomous vehicles but a potential headache for automotive manufacturers.
Highlighting the increased accountability of manufacturers, the DfT says that in the event of an accident, “the driver’s insurer will still pay out in the normal way so road accident victims are promptly reimbursed, but the insurer will then be able to claim the money back from the car company if the vehicle is deemed to be at fault”.
The second proposal is less revolutionary, simply bringing the Highway code and key regulations up to date with the fast-paced development of autonomous technology. This will primarily involve changes to help drivers use advanced assistance systems safely.
Initially, the government will focus on a small number of systems, namely remote control parking and motorway assist features, but it is willing to expand its scope in order to react to the development of new technology.
With Volvo set to conduct the UK's biggest autonmous driving trial and new research showing that more than half of all new cars sold are equipped with autonomous technology, these proposals have come at an appropriate time. The consultation is currently under way and will last for nine weeks, closing in mid-September. The government is also encouraging the public to contribute to the new measures.