Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill – new UK proposals to promote AVs

The UK Government has proposed new legislation to support the development and take-up of autonomous and electric vehicles. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill puts forward draft rules on:

  • insurance of automated vehicles, and liability where accidents are caused by them
  • establishing charging networks for electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

This is a second attempt. The Government introduced a Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill in February covering much of the same ground, but this was a casualty of the snap general election.

The Bill takes forward ideas developed through a 2016 consultation process focusing on changes to the insurance and liability regime for autonomous vehicles.

If passed, the Bill will require the Department for Transport to keep a list of “automated vehicles”. These are vehicles that:

“a)        are or might be used on roads or in other public places in Great Britain, and

b)         are in the Secretary of State's opinion designed or adapted to be capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves.”

(see clause 1(1)).

The insurance changes introduced by the Bill would:

  • make the insurer of the vehicle causing an accident when it is in self-driving mode liable for resulting damage or injury
  • make deductions for contributory negligence or where the vehicle is being allowed to drive in inappropriate conditions
  • allow exclusions or limitations in cover, or recovery from the motorist, where they have not applied software updates, or have interfered with the vehicle's systems.
  • allow for self-insurance by public bodies.

Most of the proposals track those put forward earlier in the year, although there are some changes. The definition of a vehicle “driving itself” has been developed to refer specifically to operation in a self-driving mode (clause 7(1)). And the proposals around liability for AV users who have failed to install software updates have been narrowed down to those software updates that are “safety critical” (clause 4).

We discussed the planned changes when the Government response to the consultation appeared, highlighting concerns that a gradual, evolutionary approach to regulating autonomous vehicles could in fact be dangerous.

You can track the progress of the Bill here.

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