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Published 18 March 2021
DAC Beachcroft has today submitted its response to the third and final consultation jointly issued by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission. This reviews the necessary changes to driving laws and regulations to enable the safe deployment of automated vehicles (AVs). Drawing on industry stakeholder feedback from both the first and second consultations, this detailed consultation paper which amounts to almost 400 pages is the culmination of three years’ work, and will inform the Law Commission’s recommendations to Parliament later this year.
The recommendations put forward by the Law Commission in this consultation have evolved significantly since its preliminary consultation and now generally align closely with our positions. We are encouraged by the reception our contributions have received, as evidenced by the fact that our responses were heavily cited in the Law Commission’s analysis of submissions to its previous AV consultations.
DAC Beachcroft, in providing its response to this consultation (click here to access the response), continues with its stance of inputting into the consultation process in a manner designed to help inform the debate and bring to the fore, for due consideration and reflection, the issues arising in this fast developing area of the use of technology in transport and mobility solutions.
In our response to this consultation, we have focused on several key concepts:
It is imperative that automated vehicles, being effectively ‘computers on wheels’, are regulated and legislated for in a different way to conventional vehicles. In our response we recommend a ‘safety first’ approach to the development of AVs and automated driving systems (ADS), to include matters relating to data protection, cyber security and legal reform.
It is critical that the adoption of advanced driver assistance systems, ADS and related statutory reforms be carried out in a manner that will maximise public acceptance of these new technologies. If the government fails to inspire public confidence, take up will be limited. This, in turn will adversely impact the safety benefits that will be derived in the longer term. More disconcertingly, a failure to adhere to the ‘safety first’ approach could lead to incidents involving these technologies that could cause the media and public to turn against them, setting back mass market engagement by many years.
The government’s attitude towards automated lane keeping systems (ALKS) suggests an imminent desire to implement a first use case of ADS, in order to hold out the UK as a technological world leader, but this comes at the cost of diminishing the safety first principle and risking public backlash.
Whilst ALKS provides a tremendous opportunity for vehicle safety to move forward by potentially reducing the number of human-led accidents, it has not yet demonstrated the technological advancement required to classify it as capable of safe self-drive and should be classified as advanced driver assist.
As the technology improves and real world data on the strengths and weaknesses of ALKS becomes available, the classification of ALKS as an automated driving system can be reconsidered and consulted upon.
There are many aspects relating to data access, protection and retention that need to be more fully addressed before AVs can be safely and successfully introduced onto the UK’s road network. We are encouraged by the Law Commission’s inclusion of data issues in this consultation, and we hope it will explore these matters in greater detail in future consultations, perhaps focused solely on ADS data matters.
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