ILC ARTICLE

Government reveals ‘code’ of autonomous conduct


The government has revealed the changes it is proposing to make the Highway Code fit for purpose in the age of autonomous driving.

Following a public consultation, the updated code will stipulate that motorists travelling in self-driving mode must be ready to resume control if prompted. Meanwhile, regulations will be revised to allow drivers to view content unrelated to driving on display screens – although using mobile phones will remain illegal as they are deemed too distracting.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said, “This is a major milestone in our safe introduction of self-driving vehicles, which will revolutionise the way we travel, making our future journeys greener, safer and more reliable. This exciting technology is developing at pace right here in Great Britain and we’re ensuring we have strong foundations in place for drivers when it takes to our roads. In doing so, we can help improve travel for all while boosting economic growth across the nation and securing Britain’s place as a global science superpower.”

Matthew Avery, Chief Research Strategy Officer, Thatcham Research, added, “Education is a key enabler of safe adoption, and as such we welcome the announcement’s focus on ensuring that drivers understand their legal obligations behind the wheel of any vehicle described as having ‘self-driving capability’.

“Although automation will ultimately make our roads safer, accidents will still occur. Therefore, data must be recorded that shows who was in control at the time of a collision, however minor, and this data must be openly accessible to all stakeholders, not only the carmakers.

“The question of who pays when an automated vehicle crashes remains unclear. Carmakers and insurers will work together to handle claims where the vehicle is proven to be in self-driving mode, but the provision of data will be vital to making sense of collisions and ensuring that legal wrangling does not put a brake on adoption.

“As a clear communication to the consumer, the announcement’s focus on the driver’s legal responsibilities is important, especially when it comes to taking back control from the system. This is an area of risk and it’s important that drivers are aware that they must remain engaged and be ready to resume the driving task at any time.

“We are also pleased to see that the proposed changes will not permit mobile phone use, and instead only allow use of the vehicle’s infotainment system – which means the self-driving system can issue a warning as required and bring the driver back into the loop promptly.”

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24-06-2022

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