Recommendations for who will be legally liable if an autonomous vehicle is involved in a collision or commits an offence are set to be published by the Law Commission before the end of the year.
Jessica Uguccioni, lead lawyer of the Law Commission’s autonomous vehicles review, says: “One of the big things we’ve determined is that you can’t just keep the current system for enforcing road traffic rules when it comes to automated vehicles.
“At the moment you can basically lock people up if they do something really, really bad on the road, like dangerous driving, but that is just not going to work with the automated driving regime.
“We need to have a system which is much more based on ensuring safety to begin with, but then understanding why things have gone wrong and preventing them happening again because a single incident can have ramifications for many other vehicles.”
If the vehicle is fully autonomous and can travel without a driver in them then any people in the vehicle are merely passengers so have no legal responsibility for the way the vehicle drives and are under no obligation to take over the driving.
Determining liability for autonomous vehicles which require a human driver to be in control of the vehicle at times is more complicated.
While there will be periods when the vehicle is fully autonomous or when it is being fully controlled by a human, there will also be times when the vehicle is transferring control to the driver.