• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Self-driving car users should not be held responsible for crashes, says UK report


Self-driving car users would benefit from immunity from offenses such as dangerous driving, exceeding speed limits and running red lights under legal reforms proposed by the England and Country Law Commission. Wales and the Scottish Law Commission.


In a joint report released on Tuesday, the commissions recommended that legal responsibility for accidents caused by self-driving vehicles should not rest with the person occupying the driver’s seat, but with the company or organization that obtained the authorization. for the autonomous driving functions used by the vehicle.

UK Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said she hoped the report would boost public confidence in self-driving technology that could make everyday travel safer and more environmentally friendly.

The technology currently available to consumers does not allow for fully autonomous driving, and in the United States, legal responsibility for offenses committed by vehicles using automated driving technology rests with the driver.

On Thursday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced plans to release safety ratings for vehicles that use partial automation, a technology that can be dangerous without adequate safeguards, IIHS President David Harkey said.

In October, 27-year-old Kevin George Aziz Riad was charged with two counts of gross negligence driving manslaughter in connection with the 2019 fatal wreckage in Gardena, California of a Tesla Model S 2016 that used an autopilot feature, the first instance in the United States of a driver being prosecuted for a felony while using automated driving technology.

Param Sharma, 25, was charged with two counts of reckless driving in May after he set up a Tesla to drive him around the San Francisco Bay Area on autopilot as he relaxed in the back seat , which he described as a “magical experience,” NBC reported. .

Key context

Tesla, GM, Google and other automakers and tech companies have invested billions in developing driverless vehicle technology. However, there are currently no vehicles on the roads that are truly driverless, with the current generation of commercially available systems able to do little more than hold vehicles in marked lanes and automatically brake when approached. a hazard is detected. Even if driverless technology arrives, human intervention will still be needed to maintain vehicles and prevent illegal activity, said MIT researcher Ashley Nunes. FinancialTimes. A legal definition of “self-driving” technology has yet to be established in the UK, and the legal reforms proposed by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission can only apply to technologies that do not yet exist.

crucial quote

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to promote public acceptance of automated vehicles with our safety assurance recommendations and clarify legal liability,” said Public Rights Commissioner Nicholas Paines. “We can also ensure that accessibility, especially for older and disabled people, is a priority from the start.”


Under the proposed legal reforms, users of self-driving cars would still be responsible for driving tasks such as getting car insurance and making sure children are wearing seatbelts.

To monitor

The authorities will decide whether to introduce legislation to implement the commissions’ recommendations.

Surprising fact

In 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted that self-driving cars with unlimited mobility would be available by 2018 at the latest.

Further reading

“Self-driving car users shouldn’t be liable ‘if something goes wrong’: report” (Bloomberg)