Clarity on autonomous vehicle laws needed ‘urgently’

A group of MPs is urging the government to pass comprehensive laws for autonomous vehicles in order to prevent the UK falling behind other nations.

The cross-party Transport Committee says the government needs to legislate before the next general election because the current laws for self-driving vehicles (SDVs) are “archaic and limiting”.

Fully automated driving systems are not legal in the UK. They were mooted for a 2021 release date initially, before slipping to 2022, and are now being pencilled in for 2025.

The cross-party organisation has recommended legislating safety, security and liability as well as infrastructure and use of personal data.

Transport Committee chair Iain Stewart said: “Self-driving vehicles are a great British success story in the making and we have a competitive advantage over many other countries. 

“But all that hard work could be at risk if the government doesn’t follow through and bring forward a transport bill in the next parliamentary session, before the next general election.

“Widespread take-up of SDVs face various hurdles, including public confidence in their safety, security and their potential to have knock-on impacts on other road users. If the government is going to meet its ambitions for self-driving vehicle deployment, these knotty issues need to be addressed. 

“We believe the government should take a cautious, gradual approach, with SDV technologies only initially introduced in well-defined contexts, or else we risk unintended consequences.”  


MPs have questioned the government’s proposed ‘safety ambition’ – that autonomous vehicles will be “expected to achieve an equivalent level of safety to that of a competent and careful human driver” – believing it is “too weak and too vague”.

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The committee also said the government should set out a strategy for the future of human driving in a world of SDVs, including possible changes to driving tests and a plan to ensure all drivers fully understand SDVs.

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