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The UK to Review Autonomous Driving Laws Prior to Granting Approval

a cartoon showing a robot driving a car and talking to a police officer

The UK government is all set to conduct a review of its existing laws on public safety in anticipation of self-driving cars. The announcement is a clear indication that the government is serious in its desire to have autonomous vehicles running on Britain’s highways as early as 2021.

The review of existing laws takes into consideration criminal and civil responsibility involving self-driving cars that operate through a shared control by humans and computers. The issues include the role of self-driving cars in public transport, vehicle sharing, on-demand passenger services, and the need for new criminal offenses. The reviewers will weigh the impact of self-driving vehicles to other road users and their protection against the risks that self-driving cars may pose on them, and the liable person who is responsible for the operation of the self-driving vehicle.

The Law Commission of England and Wales, and the Scottish Law Commission will conduct the three-year review. They will look at the need to adjust traditional laws in account of issues of self-driving vehicles that do not have any human at the steering wheel.

The British government is conducting the review in its attempt to catch up with driving technology that is advancing at an unprecedented rate. British laws must keep pace with the technological advancement in order for the country to remain one of world leaders in the field.

The government is allocating more than £22 million to finance 22 research and development projects related to the development of self-driving vehicle technology. The funding will be spent for the innovative use of technology on and off the road. The British government has invested £120 million, out of the £1 billion it pledged for the project — and in various projects that include the use of driverless vehicles in hostile environments.

Worldwide implications

Besides UK, other countries are also looking into the revisions of the laws in anticipation of driverless vehicles running in public roads. The automation of automobiles will impact the way vehicles on the road interact with one another. Automation will also require upgrades in infrastructures. Governments need to allocate investments for the improvement of on-car automation features.

Smart highways will sprout in many countries that have adapted the technology. The will incorporate dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles, as it is possible to put more of them together on the road, running at the same speed to safely transport people and goods.

Currently, automation in vehicles are available only on high-end vehicles in terms of advanced cruise control, radar to help detect collision, assisted braking technology, and rear-view cameras.  Automated vehicles of the future aim to transport people and goods without the need for human intervention. Autonomous vehicles are expected to minimize failures and accidents, reducing road fatalities resulting from crashes and accidents.

In the US, the House of Representatives approved the HR 3388, known as the Safety Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution, or the SELF DRIVE Act. It hastens the automated vehicle development in the country, permitting 25,000 autonomous vehicles on the road during the first year, and rising to 100,000 each year that follows. The only requirement for an autonomous vehicle to roll on the road is the presentation of a letter by the manufacturer of safety assessment of the vehicle’s automated systems.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers will have the responsibility of the vehicle’s safety assessment, instead of the old practice of giving the National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration (NHTSA) such responsibility. This means that the makers of automated cars will submit their safety assessment letter to regulators, which will serve as the safety approach taken by the manufacturers.

Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles are eagerly waiting for the final guidelines to be issued by the government on the matter of autonomous vehicle operations in the country.

The whole world is anxiously waiting for the roll out of self-driving cars on the roads. The technology is already here and car manufacturers have embraced the demand for the new type of vehicles.

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