EFS Consulting

Legal Framework for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles

The work on a regulatory framework for connected and autonomous vehicles in the United Kingdom is progressing.

In 2018, the British Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) asked the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission to undertake a far-reaching review of the legal framework for automated vehicles, and their use as part of public transport networks and on-demand passenger services.

So far, three public consultations were carried out.  Recently, a draft impact assessment summarizing the findings and conclusions so far was published.

In the document, two options were basically considered:

– Option 0 – Do nothing;

– Option 1 – Create a comprehensive regulatory framework for AVs to clearly define the legal responsibilities of all key market participants and users; establish a clear process for vehicle approvals and monitoring; remove regulatory barriers/uncertainty hindering commercial deployment.

Preference was given to Option 1 because it reduces uncertainty and provides legal clarity. Legal clarity, in turn, enables development, potentially at a faster pace, and there is the prospect for improved safety, increased mobility and reduced social exclusion.

Problems under consideration were e.g.: safety assurance, criminal liability and civil liability.

Regarding the legal responsibilities, the Commission proposed a comprehensive regulatory framework which also provides flexibility to account for different use cases. It allocates responsibility for an AV to three key actors:

– the Automated Driving System Entity (ADSE) is the manufacturer or developer who puts the vehicle forward to the Secretary of State for listing as self-driving;

– the user-in-charge (UIC) is the human in the driving seat of an AV while an automated driving system (ADS) with conditional automation is engaged;

– a licensed fleet operator is responsible for the remote operation of vehicles with no user-in-charge. A fleet operator is likely to be an organization rather than an individual.

An important issue is also an ongoing safety assurance.  AVs will require more ongoing safety assurance than conventional vehicles. Road infrastructure will change, as will road rules. AVs will require their systems to be updated to ensure that they continue to be able to abide by traffic laws and drive safely throughout their deployment. In our consultations we have highlighted five areas

which will require ongoing consideration:

(1) software updates;

(2) cybersecurity;

(3) updating maps;

(4) communicating information to users; and

(5) collecting data to compare automated and conventional driving.


Comments to the draft impact assessment regarding the policy objectives of the project, the rationale for intervention and the potential scale and scope of the Commissions’ reforms are welcome and can be sent to the Commission directly.

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