Transport innovation – today’s Queen’s Speech heralds the regulation of e-scooters and more activity on automated driving

The Prince of Wales delivered the Queen’s Speech this morning. The Speech itself sets out, fairly briefly, the main themes of the government’s legislative programme for the new parliamentary session (the government’s accompanying background material is more comprehensive and runs to 140 pages).

In relation to a new Transport Bill, he said that the government “will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations.” This high-level summary is sufficiently broad to encompass introducing new regulations for e-scooters and further refinements of the law governing automated driving.

On the former, the Sectary of State told parliament late last month that he would legislate for e-scooters, saying that “What I want to do, and will do, is crack down on all the e-scooters that are being sold privately that are substandard, that can be tampered with without necessarily breaking the law, that do not have the required lighting and that are sometimes built to the wrong power, wattage and the like. We will crack down on the private market and make it illegal to sell e-scooters that do not meet the regulatory standards we will bring in … I shall announce it on 10 May.”

Turning to automated driving, the prospect of further legislation is very clearly stated in the background material to the Transport Bill, which refers to “introducing new laws that safely enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles”. Considering the extensive and important work carried out on the topic by the Law Commission over the last three years, it seems highly likely that a good deal of those “new laws” would draw heavily from the Commission’s detailed recommendations that were published back in January.

Given that the new Transport Bill will also establish a new rail body, Great British Railways, and set out its role, remit and functions, it is going to be an extensive Bill and as such may not be published in full for several months.

Back in October, the Prince told the BBC that his 1970 Aston Martin had been converted to run on bioethanol that was produced from “surplus English white wine, and whey from the cheese process.”  That is a rather different style of transport innovation to those he announced earlier today, and which should, over the next two years or so, culminate in comprehensive new legal codes governing e-scooter use and automated driving.

Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs at BLM

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