Automated driving: latest consultation from the Department for Transport

The DfT today launched a suite of five new consultation exercises as part of its future of transport regulatory review programme. These are open for responses until 24 November 2021 and focus on: zero emission vehicles, autonomous shipping, future of flight, modernising vehicle standards and on regulatory sandboxes (the last of these describes a way of flexing regulation to allow innovative tech to be trialled ahead of formal rule changes).

The vehicle standards consultation will be highly relevant to those interested in automated vehicles / driving and runs somewhat in parallel to and in conjunction with the Law Commission’s preparation of its final report on AVs, which is due by the end of the year.

The modernising vehicle standards consultation looks to define the nature of new powers the government may need to ensure safe use of AVs in self-driving mode and for other purposes. It is probably fair to say that the key issues and direction of travel are clear enough already from the three Law Commission consultations (accessible here) even before publication of its final report. The DfT’s consultation is therefore something of a scoping exercise, aimed at framing a future ‘enabling’ Act (or Acts), ie which will set out powers to be exercised by secondary legislation as and when required. This is clear from the following extract:

We propose to create:

  • an approval scheme for automated vehicles to set requirements for safety, security and in-use monitoring – this will cover systems, sub-systems and manufacturers’ processes across the vehicle lifecycle (design, development, manufacturing and in-use operation)
  • new technical regulations for road vehicles, such as approval and in-use obligations for software and cyber-security requirements over vehicle life – this will include the ability to direct vehicle manufacturers and suppliers of replacement parts to act where needed
  • powers to ensure the correct maintenance and use requirements, most notably for connected and automated vehicles
  • improved powers for monitoring and enforcement of in-use compliance and market surveillance activities – this will include requirements for manufacturers to provide information (such as technical specifications, performance data and access to embedded software)
  • powers for the Secretary of State for Transport to amend, by statutory instrument, retained EU legislation on the type-approval of vehicles and NRMM* – for example, the EU type-approval framework regulations and regulations covering engine pollutants and emissions [* Non-Road Mobile Machinery]

So, this is a wide ranging overhaul of powers covering testing, approval and vehicle data/cyber issues. It also covers recall, monitoring and other vehicle safety procedures and is therefore a significant consultation which requires engagement and response from insurance stakeholders.

The consultation runs for just two months and we are already beginning to plan how we develop our approach to it – please get in touch with any of your motor insurance contacts at BLM if you would like further information on this.

You can also keep up to date on all matters relating to automated vehicles by accessing our dedicated hub here.

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